Have you ever had a tricky work question you can’t stop agonizing about or a professional decision that needs to be made now, with little regard for your 9-to-5 work hours? Work things can have a big impact on your personal happiness and that’s where the lines between self-care and professional development can start to blur. That’s why we created the GNI Water Cooler as a place to talk about just this type of thing.
For the third installment of the GNI Water Cooler series, we asked Alex Daly and Ally Bruschi of Daly to answer your questions about maintaining relationships after leaving a job, finding a career mentor, and diffusing awkward situations at work.
I was wondering how you deal with tension buildup and arguments on your team. I am trying to think of ways to unify and relieve stress with my coworkers.
Ally: At Daly, we’re big fans of coming up with creative ways to bond, connect, and de-stress over the course of the work day. Sometimes that involves impromptu group walks around the block, to get our creative juices flowing, or a quick trip to get a coffee or ice cream pick-me-up in the middle of the day (this works because we’re a small team!) We also commit to weekly team meditation sessions in the office, with a little help from our favorite meditation app, Tap In.
We have also established a weekly Monday morning wakeup call, in which the whole team gathers for a runthrough of goals for the week and a short, fun activity to start off the week on a good note. Each week, we rotate which team member is in charge of bringing in a treat for the team (ranging from lattés and pastries to build your own avocado toasts and fresh-squeezed OJ) alongside a quick game, brain teaser, discussion prompt, or exercise. We keep these meetings to under an hour (we have a lot of work to get done in a day!) but it’s a fun way to get to know each other and create intimacy on the team.
At the heart, the important thing is that we’re taking the time to gather the team, away from our desks and climbing unread email count—it doesn’t really matter what we’re doing in that time period.
I’m leaving my job (for a better one) but don’t want to burn any bridges. What are some things I can do to make a lasting impression with my current boss and colleagues? When starting a new job, what are some ways to make a great first impression?
Ally: Beyond giving an appropriate amount of notice (standard is two weeks, but if you’re very close with your colleagues and supervisors and won’t be starting your new job immediately, you can always give an earlier heads up), I’ve found the key to maintaining good relationships is to continue making the effort after your last day! If there are people from your previous job that you want to stay close with, take the initiative to set up monthly one-on-one meet-ups for coffee or drinks. Group happy hour reunions can be fun, but often aren’t great settings for catching up and maintaining individual relationships in a meaningful way.
In terms of setting a good impression at your new job, I would take the time in your first few weeks to get to know your immediate team members and supervisors over coffee, lunch, or a post-work drink. Beyond being punctual, efficient, and creative in your new role from day one, it makes a huge impression if you show that you’re willing to put time and energy behind getting to know people on an interpersonal level, and integrating yourself into the team dynamics as well. You’ll also learn a lot about the company culture and day-to-day operations by chatting with your new colleagues one-on-one!
I hear constantly the importance (especially for women) of finding a mentor in the workplace, but I find it hard to know how to ask or where to start. Any tips on finding and reaching out to potential mentors?
Ally: I find the idea of seeking out mentors to be tricky, as the most important part of a mentor/mentee relationship is the trust and respect that forms between the two, which is something that must be built over time. I’ve not yet encountered someone who successfully found a mentor through cold outreach.
I think the best strategy is to seek out one-on-one meetings over coffee, lunch, or a talk with people that you admire within your company and/or industry, and explore and develop that interpersonal relationship first, before having a conversation about potential mentorship. There may be some people that you meet with that seem like the ideal mentor on paper, but if you don’t have the same communication or leadership styles, it may not be a good fit. Establish the groundwork of friendship and mutual respect, first, and the path to mentorship will follow.
Alex: I wouldn’t be where I am today without reaching out to women I admire to ask them for advice. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at this over the years (I’m still always asking all the questions), and going to share my tips here: When you want to reach out to someone for advice, try to dig around and find some sort of connection to them, so it’s not cold. Being introduced by another mutual acquaintance leads to a much higher response rate.
Keep your email as short as possible. Start with why you admire this person, and why you are asking to connect for their time (acknowledging that their time is precious!). No meandering story with words like “I don’t know what to do, and I think you can help me fix that.” Include in the email a couple targeted issues that you want to talk about. If possible, add a line about how you would like to help them in return! They might not need this support, but the offer means a lot. Provide times that you can chat with them, and be sure to say that you need only x period of time. “I would love if we could get on a 30-min call” or “Can we meet for a quick coffee (on me!), right near your office?”
Always pay! For coffee, drinks, lunch, whatever. And, please, always send a follow up thank you note (that same day). I usually send a gift in addition to my note, like a bottle of wine or plant. People remember these things!
Images by Pheobe Cheong.