Recently, a client asked me to give some advice to his new team. Most of them are new professionals passionate about their work and eager to make their mark. It got me thinking about what I would tell my younger self if I could go back and do it again.
One of the occupational hazards of working in the social good sector has been that at every organization I’ve worked, I’ve been one of maybe 2-3 black women and almost always the only one on the senior management team. So your girl was lonely. But almost a decade ago, I worked alongside a brilliant woman who would later become my best friend.
Ajuah keeps me honest, is my professional crush and would tell me all about myself if my performance at work isn’t up to snuff (hell if my performance in life isn’t up to snuff). I am so grateful to my old CEO, Suzanne, for bringing us together because life wouldn’t be the same without her. Now before you roll your eyes at my mushiness hang in there with me. You know I am going somewhere with this.
So I really haven’t had a professional roadie since then. Life and organization tenure didn’t work out that way. There wasn’t anyone who I connected with like Ajuah or who I could trust like her; not at work anyway. So when I went back into full time consulting, I was overwhelmed with loneliness.
It didn’t take me long to realize that even on your own you need a work bae.
You’ve heard of a work wife or hubby, right? That person you eat lunch with or go grab drinks with after work. The one who covers for you, cusses you and goes to conferences with you? A work bae is just like that but updated for the times.
Humans. We are naturally curious folk and just as we need water, food and shelter we also need friendship and healthy positive relationships. Even at work! So just like in your personal life, if you have good relationships at work you are going to be happier and more productive.
Not convinced yet?
In addition to being happy and productive, good relationships at work do some other things for us. They make work more enjoyable AND we have allies when we are looking to implement new ideas. And speaking of ideas; we are more creative and innovative when we have healthy work relationships. These relationships are necessary if we want to grow our careers (hello! social capital) so it’s in our best interest to seek them out, develop them and nurture them.
Work bae for the win! But in this world of trying to move up fast and look out for yourself first — how DO you find a genuine work bae?
Here are three easy ways to “get you a work bae”:
- Take a risk. Decide that you are going to be more than “business as usual” at work. So many of us treat work as a place we show up to, put in some hours, do our work and leave. But what if you decide that you’re going to pay attention to the people at work in a real way? In order to do this you have to accept that you spend more time at work than you do at home so having great work relationships just makes work…better. Identify your relationship needs because getting a work bae takes time. Having a great attitude about people (generally) and your co-workers (specifically) can put you in great position to attract good people to you at work.
- Get your people skills up. It’s not enough to put your head down and do great work. Just like in dating – you’ve got to BE the person you’d want to date. So working on the 3 C’s – communication, collaboration and conflict resolution – will help you strengthen your soft skills and help your co-workers (and potential work bae) see you for the awesome human you are. Do you have high emotional intelligence? Have you shown appreciation for a teammate lately? Being able to plug in (with healthy boundaries) is another layer necessary to build a solid foundation for healthy relationships that can lead to finding a work bae.
- Pay attention + schedule it. When you ask someone “how was your weekend?” — actually stop and listen to what they have to say. Or the next time a colleague says “we should get a drink after work”, make time to do so (even if you don’t drink have a mocktail on deck). Just like in middle school it’s always tough to make new friends but somebody’s gotta do it. Schedule time in your week to talk to your coworkers. Schedule time in your month to attend the affinity group meeting or the happy hour networking thing. These are the little things that build a solid foundation of good relationships and eventually 1 (or 2) people will emerge as bae.
You might be wondering if I have a work bae now that I am a solo practitioner? And the answer is yes ( I mean guys…I follow the advice I give you know). I actually have 3!!!
There’s Tasha, who keeps me company when my office is silent. We co-work on FaceTime and sometimes sit in silence for hours while we get our projects done. She works from home too (when she’s not on a plane) and this helps us feel connected. Tasha is work bae!
Then there’s Rochelle; my creative catalyst. She’s responsible for keeping the Kishshana & Co. brand (and me) honest and fresh and has a crazy good knack for helping me breathe life into every single one of my ideas. And she tells me I give great advice so that’s a win-win. I mean like any good bae she’s going to make you feel good when you doubting your genius, right? Rochelle is work bae!
And lastly, there is Maz; my consulting partner in crime. She is two time zones away on the opposite end of the country but always finds a way to make me feel appreciated. She does cool stuff like introduce me to new networks and is my (soon be published) book editor. And she even sent me a playlist the other day of 100 songs from the 90’s that I groove to everyday (on a pink glitter flash drive no less). HELLO! Maz is work bae!
I’m convinced I am a better teacher, trainer, coach and consultant because I have professional peeps that love me and want the best for me. You might see the word love and think “eh…Kishshana” and maybe you’d be right. But if I had to give myself advice when I started my career I’d tell my younger self “Go make friends. Find you a work bae! Stretch yourself and nurture your networks. You’ll be a better professional (and person) if you do”.
Write me back and tell me all about your work bae. I want to know who helps make your professional life brighter.