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Closer than the average co-worker.

The company picnic. The office Christmas party. Those functions are more than just the company's way of thanking employees for their hard work. They're also designed to increase the level of intimacy between co-workers, so everyone can work even better together.

"Workplace intimacy shouldn't be confused with sexuality," cautions B.J. Walker, director of community operations for the Illinois Department of Human Services in both Chicago and Springfield. Walker defines intimacy as genuine caring; being concerned about and considerate of fellow team members, as the team works together to accomplish a common goal.

"Intimacy between co-workers and colleagues begins with a firm commitment to get to know the people behind the mask of their job, title, role or function," says Walker. "Getting behind the mask requires moving past the facade of formality and corporate behavior."

True, a professional environment requires that there be a clear understanding of personal boundaries. But in today's work culture of consensus management and group projects, it's almost impossible to meet high expectations without sharing common goals and values with the person in the trenches next to you helping you get the job done.

Walker disagrees with critics who suggest that intimacy diminishes professionalism and, thus, efficiency. She contends that some measure of camaraderie is an integral component of organizational effectiveness. After all, "we all work better with people we know," she maintains.

The following steps help create camaraderie in the workplace:

* Build trust. Trust is a crucial component in creating intimate work relationships, and building it requires the efforts of all team members. Members must make a commitment to an unchanging belief system that places a common cause or standard ahead of individual agendas or gains. The team must also work to eliminate any opportunities in which a member's best interest takes precedence over the common cause.

* Express your true self. Honest and forthright communication must be practiced among all team members. Hidden agendas, withheld information and manipulated discussions hinder intimacy by undermining team efforts. Expressing yourself involves exposing what you know, believe, feel and intend to do--there are no secrets. Discourage members from trying to be politically correct. Instead, have them concentrate on being polite and courteous. Encourage them to care enough to select words that accurately reflect how they feel and the message they want conveyed.

* Take it slowly. Camaraderie isn't instantaneous; it takes time. While intimacy offers heightened team spirit, group cohesiveness and unity, it also increases individual vulnerability. Expect hesitancy, doubt, resistance and even hostility--they're the usual reactions and feelings that accompany change. But keep movement steady by setting a pace that every member understands they must follow for the good of the team.

* Keep your eyes open. Don't fall blindly in love; acknowledge that there will be problems. Watch for any abuse of the rules by members who only want information for gain. Keep your eyes open so you can recognize when something is wrong. And when something goes wrong--address it.

* Be willing to "kiss and make up." Managing conflict effectively is essential to creating and maintaining camaraderie. Every relationship has occasional disagreements and/or conflicting views and opinions. Help team members resist the urge to perceive opposing views as personal affronts. Reiterate the fact that agreement isn't necessary for understanding, and that "agreeing to disagree" doesn't have to hinder team efforts.

To help you establish proper intimate relationships in the office, read:

* Beyond the Magic Circle: The Role of Intimacy in Business by Brian R. Smith (Fainshaw Press, $12.50)

* Cultivating Common Ground: Releasing the Power of Relationships at Work by Daniel S. Hanson (Butterworth-Heinemann, $17.95)

* Sexual Harassment on the Job: What It Is & How to Stop It by William Petrocelli and Barbara Kate Repa (Nolo Press, $18.95)
COPYRIGHT 1999 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:workplace intimacy can enhance job satisfaction
Author:Reed, Marcia A.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 1999
Words:621
Previous Article:BURNOUT BLUES.
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