A workplace without drama, where you can walk in each day and be glad to be there, is massage therapist Brooke Riley’s idea of a terrific place to work.
“I want to look forward to coming to work, and if I don’t, I will not stay in that workplace,” said Riley, 39, who has been a licensed massage therapist for six years and is an operations specialist for Massage Heights, a family-owned therapeutic massage and facial services franchise company based in San Antonio, Texas.
“I enjoy doing massage, but that means nothing if when I come out of my treatment room with my client I don’t enjoy the presence of the coworkers around me. How can I give my best and all to my client if I’m unhappy going into the service?”
Whether you work in your own massage studio with one other person or a franchise location with dozens, getting along with your coworkers is important.
Countless studies detail the effects of negative interpersonal relationships at work: dissatisfaction with work and the workplace; higher turnover; and detrimental impacts on physical and mental health and well-being. Plus, Riley said, clients can tell if there’s discord among coworkers. “If everyone is not working together (well) it can throw off the entire spa atmosphere,” she said.
But having good interpersonal relationships at work makes a big difference, with studies finding beneficial impacts on physical and mental health including reductions in stress levels; feelings of belonging; lower rates of turnover; and higher levels of motivation, productivity, job performance and satisfaction.
Building camaraderie at work sometimes comes naturally, with a group of people who just seem to click. But like all relationships, healthy work relationships – whether they just “clicked” or not – require tending and boundaries.
Some obvious ways of cultivating positive interpersonal work relationships include being considerate of each other, saying thanks, and avoiding gossip.
Sharing knowledge – without being a condescending know-it-all – is also a great way to encourage good working relationships, she said, as is celebrating each other’s efforts. She once worked at a location where clients’ positive comment cards were posted in the breakroom for everyone to see. “This would make (everyone) feel so good,” she said.
Everyone shared in the positive feedback individuals got, and acknowledged each other’s good work.
One of Riley’s favorite ways of fostering good interpersonal relationships at work is eating together. “We have potlucks or order food for special occasions,” she said. “All the therapists love this.”
Sometimes while coworkers are having fun with each other — celebrating someone’s birthday or an upcoming special occasion like a wedding or new baby – clients may be in and out of your location and may want to join in — especially ones that are long-time regulars.
You can joke around with your clients when they come in and want them to feel like they are part of your massage “family,” but Riley cautions massage therapists from developing friendships with clients.
“Building a friendship with your guests is something you should never do if you want to keep professional boundaries,” she said.
You don’t want to find yourself dealing with unwanted behaviors from your clients, whether that be of a sexual nature or that they may expect favors from you, such as not paying you for a session because they didn’t bring enough cash with them or forgot their credit card on the kitchen table and they want a break just this one time.
Instead of fostering friendships with clients, Riley advises massage therapists to grow professional relationships built on respect and trust. “This comes from making sure to have clear communication with the client,” she said.
Communication is also important as coworkers try to figure out what “fun” behaviors are acceptable in the workplace, she said.
While actively doing things such as having a pot luck lunch or playing practical jokes on each other can boost positive work relationships, you are still in a professional environment, so you have to be mindful of maintaining professional behavior, said Riley.
“It is hard to tell if someone will get upset about something someone else thinks is ‘fun’ or ‘funny,’” she said. Managers need to set professional conduct boundaries and make sure everyone knows what those are, which can head off any issues before they become a problem.
If coworkers are comfortable talking to each other about what they find unacceptable, that’s great, but if they’re not, it is a good idea for them to at least talk to a manager about it so that something can be done to make sure the work environment is enjoyable for everyone.
5 Ways You Can Build Comaraderie
Want to build camaraderie in your workplace? Here are some tips from the Forbes Coaches Council, a group of top business and career coaches:
1. Listen: Pay attention to your coworkers when you’re talking with them, even if you’re doing tasks at the same time you’re chatting. Everyone likes knowing they’re being heard.
2. Share: Learn about your coworkers. What are their hobbies? Why did they become massage therapists? What professional or life experiences have they had that you can learn from? If you have special knowledge or a lot of experience, be willing to be a mentor to someone new to the industry or the workplace.
3. Say thanks: If your coworkers help you out, praise your work, give you a referral – show your gratitude. A simple “thank-you” should cover it, but if your workplace has an employee appreciation program, take it a step further and let management know how your coworkers are great.
4. Show respect: Be considerate. Learn and understand what your coworkers’ boundaries are – maybe someone doesn’t want to talk about their personal lives at work, for instance – and honor that.
5. Avoid annoying habits: You’ll endear yourself to your coworkers, says Monster.com, if you don’t do these things: show up unprepared; be unwilling to pitch in; make a lot of noise or have many (especially loud) cell phone conversations; come to work sick.
About the Author:
Stephanie Bouchard is a freelance writer and editor based on the coast of Maine. She frequently reports news and features for MASSAGE Magazine.