To Boost Productivity, Encourage Employees to Encourage Each Other How team members interact, and the settings in which interactions occur, dramatically impact the workplace.

By Matt Straz

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When we talk about productivity, we often think about things management can do to improve morale and inspire more innovative thinking. But, here's something else to consider: employee interactions.

According to new findings from Sociometric Solutions's study on employee behavioral analytics, the number of lunchtime interactions affect employee productivity. Employees who sat at larger lunch tables were 36 percent more productive throughout the week and had 30 percent lower stress levels than those who sat at smaller tables.

Knowing how interactions can affect workflow begs the question: How does peer feedback affect employees? Should employees solicit feedback from one another?

Peer feedback can be helpful, as long as it is constructive rather than destructive. Here are a few ways employees can give feedback to one another constructively:

1. Give compliments

Feedback often feels like it has a negative connotation. In many situations, it means something is wrong. Something needs to be changed. But the word is actually neutral. Feedback is a response that could be positive or negative. Negative says what not to do, but without anything to replace the not, the person receiving feedback may not know what to do.

Encourage employees to compliment one another frequently so team members can learn their strengths. The more employees are aware of their talents, the more they will be inclined to use them.

Related: Time for a Company Culture Audit

2. Provide suggestions

Sometimes receiving feedback can feel limiting. "Don't do this, but you do this well" isn't always enough from which to infer what actions should be taken in specific situations.

Set a rule that states when employees see a change that needs to be made, either for how a team member or the company does things, they must provide a suggestion. Stating a dislike or a preference isn't enough without a reason to support why a new method would work better.

3. Step into one another's shoes

A while back, Sam Richards gave a TED Talk called A Radical Experiment in Empathy. The discussion centered on different perspectives on the Iraq War, but the takeaway was, in order to truly understand others, people need to feel what actions have caused them to feel. Not everyone has the same experience with actions, because they look at situations from different perspectives.

Consider creating a department swap day where employees actually change rolls for a day to see things from the other side of the fence. This might work better as a proactive strategy, but can be used as a reactive one, too. When an employee understands what challenges others encounter throughout the day, they may develop more patience with others. Team members work better together when they understand what the other needs most at different points within projects.

Related: The Pros and Cons of Peer Review

4. Validate opinions

Dr. Karyn Hall defines validation as the recognition and acceptance of another person's thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviors as understandable.

Validation doesn't necessarily mean agreement. It's a method supporting a relationship while maintaining a different opinion. Within a dynamic workplace team, opinions and thoughts differ often, which is why validation is essential in giving constructive feedback. Explain to employees the difference between agreeing with and validating another's opinion. Using this method should empower employees to handle conflict more diplomatically.

5. Explain why or how

Explanations for why the human mind seeks meaning in everything run deep. A new thesis by Dr. Paul T. P. Wong cites most psychological disorders result from failing to meet our need for meaning due to pursuing success based on misguided values. Understanding why and how is essential to our healing and well-being, the thesis explains.

In the context of receiving feedback on performance at work, knowing why and how could make a difference in the trajectory of an employee's growth rate and, ultimately, career path. If an employee doesn't understand why a change needs to be made, or how a method affects other employees, they may be reluctant to make the change or adjust inaccurately. Whenever employees provide feedback to one another, ensure they explain and understand the big picture of how their roles affect the company.

Related: For a Productive Workplace Let Your Office Go to the Dogs

Wavy Line
Matt Straz

Founder and CEO of Namely

Matt Straz is the founder and CEO of Namely, the HR and payroll platform for the world's most exciting companies.

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