I recently watched a panel moderated by the lovely and eloquent Melissa Harris-Perry. During this panel, she spoke of “squad-care;” admittedly, a phrase I had never heard of before. Most of us are likely familiar with “self-care,” the idea that one can benefit from structured, mindful, approaches to remaining emotionally and physically healthy. However, by bringing up the concept of “squad-care,” Melissa made an excellent point. When we are struggling, or even when we don’t know we’re struggling, it can be particularly challenging to take care of ourselves. We don’t need to go through life alone – and that is where receiving support and encouragement from colleagues, mentors, and friends, can go a long way. This is where having a quality squad comes in handy.
In thinking about “squad-care,” I’ve realized that this concept can be extremely helpful in the workplace. Using the perfect world of Parks and Recreation, here are the 4 colleagues I would consider ideal members of my work squad:
- The mentor.
It’s my recommendation that (for new professional in the field especially) mentors be a component of one’s professional squad. A strong mentor, in my opinion, knows when to challenge an individual appropriately and when to provide softer encouragement. This person should be someone you trust, respect professionally, and aspire to be like in some capacity. Seeing that another individual you feel a connection to has succeeded in the field can provide encouragement in and of itself.
- The colleague who doesn’t talk work.
Particularly during times of stress or in anxiety-provoking moments, it can be helpful to engage with a colleague who’s great at distraction. Perhaps it’s a quick break to discuss weekend plans or a colleague who you know will encourage you to take a real lunch break when you need it most. Let’s own it: these colleagues aren’t always helpful – because sometimes, distractions are, well, distracting. It’s important to acknowledge, however, that we all need breaks – a colleague who doesn’t always talk about work-related projects and challenges can provide just that.
- The coworker who gets it.
A colleague who gets it is someone, in my opinion, who is collaborative, who understands your role and the challenges that come with it, and who you feel is on your side in the workplace. This might be someone you can brainstorm ideas with, be vulnerable around, and seek for guidance on certain issues. Seek out a colleague for your squad who you’re comfortable making mistakes around and whose judgement you trust.
- The best work friend.
Research tells us that individuals are generally more satisfied in their workplace and with their workgroup, if they have a best friend at work. Having a best friend at work may help you feel a greater sense of belonging at an organization (I know it has for me!) and help you feel more connected to an organization and the work you’re engaged in. A true work best friend to me is an individual you feel an allegiance to, someone who may get to know you a bit more deeply than the average coworker, and may help you feel as though you have a voice amongst your professional peer group.
At the end of the day, self-care is important and valid – but it’s a valid argument: when you’re struggling, self-care may not be an option. This is where the concept of “squad-care” comes into play. So, look around – who’s in your work squad?