5 Benefits of Corporate Intimacy
Bringing the power of the acceptance of ourselves and others into the workplace.
Posted Oct 27, 2015
"Intimacy" is a word that we probably don't expect to hear much about in the workplace. But feelings of closeness with coworkers is a crucial factor in how we experience our jobs.
To clarify up front, the idea of intimacy we develop in this discussion does not include romantic or erotic relationships that originate in the workplace. Nor are we referring to the common misunderstanding that genuine closeness that automatically develops when individuals share dark secrets. Rather, intimacy in this instance is a quality created almost unwittingly when we live or work side-by-side with others over time, creating the opportunity for them to learn for themselves “what we’re really like.” And if you think about it, that’s much riskier than spilling a consciously controlled narrative of “facts” about ourselves.
In the long run, intimacy is a commitment between or among people that grows through the sometimes shocking process of living together and sharing the day to day year by year—for better or for worse. Necessarily, then, intimacy is a slowly developing awareness of one another grounded in listening as we reveal who were are with one another in the work environment. A challenge that is part of sharing closeness in this way is maintaining an environment in which the feedback we give one another may be given and received without disturbing the overall sense of safety. At the same time, one of the most frightening parts of this process of creating and sustaining intimacy may be coming to realize that people we’re close to may mirror parts of ourselves that we’d prefer that no one else saw.
For many of us, irrelationship is the technique we use to protect ourselves from the people we’re living around—both at home and at work—so that they don’t learn about the real me. Without the defense of irrelationship, we leave ourselves open to suffering the anxiety and fear of abandonment and rejection, irrespective of how closely we’re living with others. In irrelationship, however, we suffer the pain of loneliness and isolation, though we're protected from consciously feeling it. The antidote to living apart in that way is learning to build mutual acceptance and trust by living and listening in the presence of one another. In our experience, this type of acceptance almost invariably leads to greater warmth, kindness and the ability to be with one another in what we call “compassionate empathy.”
In this model, intimacy is built on reciprocity, the openness to giving and receiving in equal measure that defines relationship sanity. Gabor Mate notes that a prevailing myth in Western culture is that people are competitive, but the reality is different: all of us, in fact, need community and companionship. Without intimacy, we can’t be present with one another or experience either compassion or empathy.
The Benefits of Corporate Intimacy
Working through our implicit resistance to intimacy is hard but rewarding work. Following are five ways that intimacy—corporate intimacy—can transform our experience of the workplace:
- Intimacy facilitates improved communication by removing the need for defensiveness.
- Improvement of communication enhances work relationships, including the added value of reducing counterproductive groupthink. Expression of respect and affection among coworkers is more acceptable than you might believe, and can improve a group’s functionality overall.
- Intimacy reduces stress. Reduction of stress clears space for greater work satisfaction, fewer sick days and improved productivity.
- The connections created by workplace intimacy make people look forward to going to work. This increases mental, emotional and physical presence which, again, improves productivity.
- Intimacy enhances creativity by creating a better setting for group work and brainstorming. Group members become less affected by social anxiety, shame and fear of thinking freely.
How Do We Create Coporate Intimacy?
The operational term is we. Think of opportunities for greater closeness in the everyday routines of work. An easy way to introduce the idea of intimacy is to mention how intimate daily sharing of goals and work tasks feels sometimes. The more open you are, the less threatening you’re likely to seem. That improves your chances of eliciting a response from others’ “outside the box” intuitive experience rather than from the confines of normal workplace culture. One of the tenets of irrelationship theory is that opening the door just a little is often all that’s needed to change dramatically the experience of the people you work with.
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