Kemetia Foley extolls the virtues of the humble tome
I never imagined myself in any kind of book club. Book clubs had a boring image. Yet, I remember the unofficial book club at my office unfolding right in front of me as my director and one of my co-workers discovered they were both reading the same book. A very engaged and energy-filled conversation ensued, the other four of us looked at one another, awestruck at this new type of interaction with our supervisor, and the book club in my office was born.
What is it about a book club at the office that often changes the dynamics of the workplace? Whether it is a formal or informal book club, the camaraderie ensues as the characters and plot twists unfold and insights are shared. It is not the same as when your office mates are watching the same television series. Because of the power of watch on-demand, viewers often move faster through a television program than through a book. A book? I know, right? So charming and very retro!
Little did I know how powerful the mighty little book club would turn out to be and how it would be one of the most subtly influential tools in building our teams. How does this benefit us in the workplace?
1 Develop a broader perspective
Each reader is coming from their own perspective, and own viewpoint. When a plot is unfolding they may see things you do not. Surprisingly, because you are not discussing that co-worker’s personal skill set, you are more open to hearing their opinion and seeing their take on the story. This can lessen our natural ego barriers when we are dealing with a more unpleasant issue.
2 Develop more empathy
You get to know more about the co-worker without having to ask direct personal questions. I know that at one of my book clubs, I was provided insight into how a character might hide their alternative lifestyle because they were concerned for their job or personal safety. I never saw that in the character to which they were referring. Later on I realized it was because this co-worker was living that same fear but did not trust to discuss it openly. I learned to not only understand my co-worker’s reticence in the workplace but to better respect her working style with customers.
3 Build trust
When revealing your opinion about some plot turn or character demise, you realize not everyone sees things the same way. And the disagreements can feel personal. When this situation occurs within a book club setting, you learn to better navigate disagreements and build trust. This is so valuable. We need to be able to have open communications and dialogues about challenging issues in the workplace. Not everyone comes naturally equipped with the ability to do this! I had to learn to not take observations and criticisms personally. Working through a disagreement about how a story ends or how it should have ended, in your opinion, allows for traveling through that awkward disconnect and still be able to work together.
4 Deal with constant change
Workplaces are full of constant change. Teammates come and go. Schedules have to be adjusted. You cannot always meet to discuss stuff when you want. Perhaps your team cannot always meet face-to-face because your company has many office locations. The group may brainstorm on how to keep the conversation on track. The book club allows a new member to begin socializing with the team without formalities.
I realized how much I missed my book club when my current organization did not have one. Perhaps I will take it upon myself to start one because I already know what benefits it offers.