money·4 min read

9 to 5ish: Esther Perel

Sep 1, 2021

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We spend a lot of time - if not most of our time - at work. And that means: the relationships we have with our colleagues matter, and can impact how satisfied we are with our jobs. So this week, we talked to world-famous psychotherapist Esther Perel about how to create meaningful relationships with our coworkers. And why our interpersonal skills are just as important as any of the skills we list on our resume. 

PS: Want to hear more from Esther? Check out her podcasts, and her new card game, here.

On Building Virtual Connections

Esther: People are seeking at work a sense of belonging, a community, a sense of purpose and meaning, and a sense of identity... It is extremely difficult for create all of that in a remote setting when basically nothing on the screen is spontaneous. We schedule every meeting. There is no serendipity. There is no happenstance. There is no chance encounter, which are all those detours that lead you to places you could never have anticipated. Everything is extremely planned and predictable. That is one of the great losses of the flattening of relationships and work life that is taking place on the screen.

…. The next thing is that people, by working remote, are also working often from their bedrooms. They're spending their whole day in their bedrooms. That means that home is no longer home and work is not really work. It is a kind of a merging of environments without boundaries. So what is really helping us at this moment is to create routines and rituals and boundaries. And I think the routines and rituals...can be done towards oneself with oneself, but also in the workplace, to have conversations that are not about work, but that are about the people who are at work. Who are you working with? Who is this person that you are sending this document to? Who is this new person who just joined us? And not just to say, "Mitch's joining us today, he's going to be taking care of such and such and such and such." And that's the end of Mitch's introduction…. And so Mitch is going to remain a rather unknown entity who doesn't really know where he fits. 

On Relationship Resumes

Esther: We all bring a relationship resume to work. We bring to work the history of how we connect with people, how we communicate, how we trust, how we collaborate, how we ask for help, et cetera. That is part of the unofficial resume. I think one of the very nice questions when people come in is instead of asking them, "Where have you worked before? Or what are your skills or what is the strength that you bring to this task," we actually ask people to introduce themselves by their unofficial roles. What is the stuff that actually defines a lot about who you are? You know, other things that you care about that keep you busy, that you enjoy, that you share with other people, that is none of what you have written on your CV. Have that be the introduction. It's a beautiful way to enter into people's worlds, into stories, so that you begin to create not only a shared experience, but also [a] connected, shared reality.

On How Managers Can Balance Compassion and Productivity

Esther: The 'compassion statement' says, "I understand what you're feeling. Tell me more." The 'production question' says, "What can I do? Or what is it that you need in order to do what you need to do despite or given how you feel? What do we need to make available for you so that you can do the work as well?"

And it's a both-and. "I understand that you're living at home and that you have terrible wifi. How can we help you? Do we find another place for you that you can go?" You basically take the situation and you turn it into the part of the situation that you can solve. Some of it you need to manage and some of it you can actually solve.

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