I recently developed and trained a class for senior leaders titled “Building High Performance Teams”. The discussions were lively and focused on leadership skills, team dynamics, engagement, coaching, and the relationship matrix. When discussing teams, I stated that groups in organizations can be like high school, with the popular crowd and the other crowd, fondly called the out crowd. I proudly proclaimed that I was a theater and music geek and by virtue of my lilting voice and “twinkle toes”,  I was in the out crowd.

A woman raised her hand and mentioned that a new method for tagging the out crowd is called “lonely lunch”. The group had never heard of this and wanted more details. The woman’s six-year old daughter exhibited “bad” behavior and her punishment from the teacher was to eat lunch by herself in full view of her classmates. This public ridicule was intended to change behavior, the message was, don’t be bad or you will eat by yourself. The participants in my class were astonished that this practice was allowed, really??!

When the topic turned to engagement, I shared research that was interesting, impactful, and described the outcome of “lonely lunch“. According to Inc., 40% of employees voluntarily quit within their first six months of employment. Income and hours were cited, of course, but one survey from Access Perks indicated that approximately 65% of dissatisfied employees leave because they do not feel valued. Employers that help employees go from the “out crowd” to team member have a greater chance of retaining them for the long term

The first day of work can be a throwback to high school and “lonely lunch”. New employees may feel like the “out crowd” as they watch the “in crowd” gather while they go through orientation which is typically comprised of paperwork and the rules that include what you can/cannot do. The first day alone in the company lunchroom or a restaurant can evoke memories. In fact, that one experience can impact a new hire’s longer-term perceptions of the company. New employees need a social atmosphere, and even one day without inclusion in a group can make them feel disconnected. A first day organized lunch or “welcome to the team” break with the manager and coworkers starts the engagement process on day one. New employees learn about the culture of the company, their peers, and have the right resources to answer their questions. When new employees ask too many questions of the wrong people, they can make enemies for the life of their career with your organization

You don’t need to hire a new employee or have an event to get your team together. An occasional, potluck or breakfast bagel builds camaraderie, reduces stress in the workplace, and eliminates the throwback feeling of the out crowd and “lonely lunch”.

When you need a partner to help you engage and train your employees, call us for a complimentary consultation.