Intimacy In The Workplace: It’s a “Do”

The Breakfast Club (TBC) is 30 years old this year, which means I first saw it when I was 3.

Okay… maybe I was 5.

It’s a classic movie that highlights 5 different types of high school students and a Saturday spent in detention. It depicts the students as the criminal, the basketcase, the princess, the brain and the athlete. Sound like your marketing department?

What struck me as I watched it again was the concept of workplace intimacy—or in its simplest terms—when your co-worker wants to hunt down a Band-Aid for you when you’re bleeding. Even though TBC’s environment was a school, there were parallels to work environments.

Intimacy is a form of close relatedness in which an individual shares his or her innermost emotions, experiences, and thoughts with the other and experiences empathic responsiveness, a depth of understanding and a sense of shared meaning.”

Given the blurred lines between work and personal lives, this type of intimacy should be encouraged in your workplace. See what happens when you allow and encourage workplace intimacy:

Labels Get Blown Up

These kids were labeled by society, their parents and their principal. While there were differences in upbringing and economic backgrounds, they were able to dismiss these labels when they came together. They shared secrets. They bonded over strained relationships with their parents. They smoked pot… okay, maybe not the best workplace example, but it helped level the playing field.

Think about a workplace without titles, org charts or discussions about overblown generational issues. It can happen when you foster workplace intimacy.

Importance of Diversity

TBC also highlights the importance of a diverse workforce. And, yes, I realize all the characters were Caucasian kids; however, they were extremely diverse in their interests and backgrounds, and therefore perspectives on life. If this had been a movie only about 5 athletes, it wouldn’t have been able to highlight how people tackle problems differently.

“Despite their differences in social status, the group begins to form friendships.”

We need different perspectives in our workplace. We need the intimacy element in order for people to feel safe, for them to want to band together and tackle tough s&!t, and for them to have a sense of alliance regardless of their backgrounds.

Sharing = Winning

In the movie we learn Brian (brain) attempted suicide due to a bad grade and Claire (princess) feels pressure from her friends because she is a virgin. Once the group opens up to each other and shares their personal struggles, a bond forms. They are able to make it through the rest of the day helping each other.

In the workplace when you share stories and are open to hearing others’ stories, you are able to see through a different lens. What may not have made sense in the past now does.

Winning comes easier when you and your co-workers are vulnerable and trust develops. You now have mutual, unspoken respect and a sense of “we’ve got this.”

While TBC crew will not end up in detention again together, you will go back to work… every day. You will spend 2000 hours of your life each year with your crew. Practice some workplace intimacy and watch labels disappear, diverse perspectives become embraced and a shared sense of success develop.

Bonus: You don’t have to worry about anyone stealing your red stapler.  Oh, wait… that’s another movie!

FOT Background Check

Kathy Rapp
Kathy Rapp is the President of hrQ, where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent or HR Consultants to drive business results.  Prior to joining hrQ, Kathy booked more than 15 years of human resources leadership experience working for such companies as Morgan Stanley and First Data Corporation.  A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent issues can be addressed via the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen  (David Lee/Sammy and sadly, Gary Cherone).


  1. Chris Osborn says:

    Excellent article! I could not agree more, by the way. Over the course of my lengthy, and to be honest, winding career, I’ve had the distinct joy of working in exactly one place where the entire team of people (small local office of a global company) shared a true sense of intimacy as you describe it. Without question, those were the most enjoyable and professionally fulfilling years of my career on a deeply personal level.
    My current role is challenging, fun and it’s been enormously rewarding professionally. I’ve never reached the levels of professional success in any other role before as I have in my current role. But I also miss that level of truly intimate bonds formed among and between those people at that office. While we’ve all scattered, we still remain in contact.
    So, is intimacy in the office okay? You bet! Especially if your goal is to build trust and cohesion around common purposes and shared success.

    • Kathy Rapp says:

      Thanks, Chris! So awesome you have experienced it and believe in it. I have as well but honestly never with an ENTIRE team – so kuddos to that company. Why did you ever leave??!!

  2. Don Currier says:

    Great article Kathy, a deja vu moment for me. Reminded me of an employer I worked for for 12 years (still would be there if the CEO hadn’t retired!!!). We had a fairly large HR team of about 45 and we truly enjoyed each other, worked hard, partied together and took care of each other. Our HR department was famous for our Halloween Party and even more famous for our pot luck cooking contests. We literally had a waiting line of staff from other departments who wanted to be judges of our food contests. We made an HR cookbook and sold copies with the proceeds going to our foundation. We dressed up every Halloween, including the VP (me) and went with bages of goodies to the Pediatric Department to visit and give treats to our hospitalized children and their families. We were also on the cutting edge of HR initiatives at the same time, doing things that others wouldn’t do for years, and as that line from an old song goes “lovin every minute of it.” The culture of the place was amazing and people truly cared for each other. Twenty years later, many of us are still in touch regularly and are considering a “reunion” of our old team. So, a resounding YES to intimacy in the workplace.

    • Kathy Rapp says:

      Don – Not only do I appreciate you taking the time to leave such a great comment – but anyone that references Loverboy is top notch in my book!

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