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

Kathy Rapp Change, Communication, Culture, Diversity, Driving Productivity, Employee Communications, Employee Engagement, Engagement and Satisfaction, Kathy Rapp, Leadership, Pop Culture, Retention, Work Life Balance

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!