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Synergy in the Workplace

What Is Synergy?

The English word “synergy” may sound like an overwrought business buzzword, but it’s actually classical in origin. It comes from the Greek roots “sun” (meaning “together”) and “ergon” (meaning work). The conjugation was passed on to the Romans, who used it to mean “cooperation,” and then was passed to English in the mid-1800s.

At first, the word was only used in English by social theorists and philosophers. Then early chemists, as they began to differentiate between atoms and molecules, found they had a word-shaped hole in their academic lexicon. Basically, they had no way to account for how base elements (like sodium and chlorine) combined into molecules (like table salt) with properties entirely different from the original components. To explain this strange and miraculous cooperation, they used the word “synergy.”

Business usage wasn’t far behind, as most organizations sought to achieve similar collaborative results from the combination of talented and capable employees. These days, the word has seen a lot of use (and perhaps abuse), but the core meaning still has merit. In our professional lives, we’re seeking effective teamwork—we want the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts. So as cliché as it sounds, most of us are pursuing synergy in teamwork as a serious goal. We develop our team player skills in order to come together to create a great team.

“The strength of the team is in each individual member… The strength of each member is in the team.”

Positive Synergy vs. Negative Synergy

Going back to chemistry for just a moment, we know that if we add sulfur to a controlled environment already containing water, given the right temperature and pressure conditions we can turn said water into sulfuric acid. In other words, we can transform a life-giving substance, water, into a destructive one, sulfuric acid. This is a metaphor to show how positive synergy can be turned into negative synergy by adding the “wrong” element. In teamwork, the same can happen.

In this regard, introducing the “wrong” person into a team can have devastating effects on performance. Achieving and sustaining positive synergy is a very complex task, and it starts with hiring the right people. Of course, positive synergy depends also on good leadership and other ongoing people-management processes. However, anyone who has ever had real team leadership responsibilities knows that hiring the wrong person is far worse than not hiring the right person. Figuratively speaking, it is a lot more difficult to turn a piece of carbon into a diamond than to continue to mine for actual diamonds. The question is, then, what should organizations do to achieve positive synergy?

“I truly believe in positive synergy, that your positive mindset gives you a more hopeful outlook, and belief that you can do something great means you will do something great.”

- Russell Wilson

Joshua Dudgeon CEO/Founder on Ideal Work Culture

My ideal work culture may be different than most. I figured out this culture through years of working for companies and people that did not respect their employees and then, in turn, were not respected.

What Is This Ideal Work Culture?

It’s basis comes from the saying “Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and are getting paid just enough not to quit.”

My ideal work culture is the antithesis, people should work so hard they could not get fired and get paid so much they cannot quit. This allows prosperity for both the business and the employees. It also attracts people who want to develop personally and professionally to be the very best in their creative work endeavor.

The result of this environment is a synergy between employees and company goals. Employees become team members and come to work for enjoyment, a sense of self-worth, and success. Each member of the team multiplies the value of the whole and becomes more valuable than they could ever be on their own, or at a company that doesn’t offer a synergistic work environment.

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