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Building Successful Work Relationships--Playing In The Same Sandbox

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Remember playing in your childhood sandbox? If you enjoyed being outside for most of the day, you could play in the sandbox for hours on end-shaping and pouring the sand or mixing it with a little water to form a castle or hill. Children enjoy playing with sand or dirt and learn at an early age how to make the most of this play time activity.

Playing in a sandbox usually starts out as a solitary exercise; however, smart parents know that in order to develop their child's ability to relate to others, another child or two must be introduced into that same sandbox. This is when the fun truly begins.

When children play together in the same sandbox:

  • They learn to trust each other.

  • Their ability to be gentle, kind and considerate is developed.
  • Friendships are initiated and nurtured.
  • Positive interaction increases and selfishness decreases.
  • They find creative ways to work together, satisfying their curiosity and increasing their enjoyment and fun.
    • You're Never Too Old for the Sandbox

      There's a tremendous amount of pressure as we grow older to learn to act our age (whatever that means). In fact, most people consider age a number not an indication of vitality, health or maturity.

      Nevertheless, too many of us leave the things of childhood behind us. This is both good and bad. It is good to leave childish behavior behind, but bad when we discard many childlike behaviors that can make us successful adults.

      One such childlike behavior is learning how to develop reliable relationships with others through experiences in the same sandbox that teach us how to cooperate, exchange ideas, and communicate.

      When we play together in the same sandbox at work:

      • It is important to know and understand the rules and limitations of play; but when we take the time to do so, we find that it is fun to mix with others, develop positive peer relationships naturally, and to encourage a spirit of lighthearted camaraderie.

    • We learn to practice balanced self-control-the right combination of expressing our opinions and feelings when facing difficult or unexpected events. Our sensitivity to and concern for others is demonstrated as we attempt to understand their perspectives.
    • We willingly let down our guards and shift our mindsets to try new and fresh ways of doing old tasks. We bask in the energy boost that results from experimentation, creativity, innovation, and learning new skills.
    • Our communication skills are stimulated and enhanced. Bridges are built between people who were once estranged. Conflict surfaces and is resolved.
      • How to Have More FUN in Your Workplace Sandbox

      • Think of yourself playing with your co-workers in the same sandbox (Don't turn into a skeptic on me now).
      • Share your creative ideas for improving your team's effectiveness with the entire team; then together select one on which to experiment.
      • Make sure to include every member of your team in some part of the experiment. Develop receptiveness and tolerance of others.
      • Solicit their feedback on a regular basis and bring any challenges or obstacles to the entire team for resolution. Don't be afraid to proactively exchange differences in opinion. These are healthy if allowed to surface early. They can be destructive if allowed to fester.
      • Celebrate every accomplishment-no matter how small. Little wins recognized as they occur communicate a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, build confidence and turn an average team into a highly motivated one.
      • Play dynamically and interact enthusiastically with each other. It has been said that a burden shared is a burden halved. So, have some fun in your work together.
      • Select another experiment and begin the process all over again.
      • If you're not having fun at work while playing in the same sandbox with co-workers, you're not doing it right. Give it another try. I think you'll be pleased that you did.

        Althea DeBrule, entrepreneur and seasoned human resources executive, has focused for more than 30 years on helping people achieve their career goals. Creator of The Extreme-Career-Makeover? and a founding partner of RADSGroup Organizational Consultants, she is recognized for her bottom line and practical application of career development and management strategies in a way that penetrates hearts and compels action. She speaks and teaches with inspired talent, humor and contagious zeal at management conferences and leadership retreats nationwide, and has been featured in CFO Magazine, Strategy@Work, Human Resource Executive Magazine. Althea is the author of Bosses & Orchards, a compelling and candid book about how to make your work relationship with your boss succeed. To discover how you can take your career to a new level, visit

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