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Just joined a new organization? Or struggling to make friends? Here is a tip to make stronger connections and improve working relationships.
I have started this series to help overcome challenges in building great working relationships with your colleagues. The culture of your organization may be that social activities and the onboarding process does this well anyway, but many organizations leave it to employees to work out for themselves.
In this post, I will be talking about inviting colleagues to lunch.
Seems such a simple thing to do, right? But maybe you’re not doing it, or have thought about it. Sitting with a colleague and chowing down can be a relaxing way for two or more people to get to know each other. It’s away from your desks, for a start. And it’s also something everybody has in common.
My advice is to first find out where the people you want to know more actually go to lunch. Your first attempt could be as simple as going where they go and asking to join them.
If these colleagues ‘disappear’ somewhere then they’re probably leaving your office to go to a local cafe or restaurant. My advice, then, is to make an open invite to lunch at a local joint with these people, and invite a handful of people who already know each other. This way is appears to be less directed to an individual and there is less awkwardness when you actually meet over lunch. You also allow for a couple of people dropping out without ruining your plans.
What if your colleagues don’t lunch, and prefer to eat ‘al desko’? This is very common with today’s workaholic lifestyles. I try to avoid it, but it isn’t always possible if deadlines are looming. There might be one day a week where leaving the desk for lunch is acceptable…? I find that Friday tends to be the day that people are more amenable to doing something different because the weekend is approaching, so you could try that day.
You might be like myself – I am quite happy to lunch on my lonesome whilst I collect my thoughts or read something. I don’t put pressure on myself to have to be with other people at lunchtime. I still create opportunities, at least once a week, to meet other people to eat to build and maintain working relationships.
What should we talk about?
When you get together over lunch, I suggest you avoid conversations about work, unless you’re asked about it. Lunchtime is an opportunity for everybody to relax and leave work behind, after all. Ask lots of questions about people. Showing an interest in them is a great place to start. I’d avoid talking about very personal stuff (who wants to talk about our ailments whilst eating?) and certainly avoid discussing other people if they’re not there: don’t enter into a ‘knitting circle’ where character-assassinations are the main course. Even if the intrigue is stimulating – it will drag you down in the end.
Above all, be yourself. Relax and don’t be afraid of a few moments of silence.