Writing guides to our work styles helped my team bond

Teamwork sometimes requires vulnerability.
Teamwork sometimes requires vulnerability.
Image: AP Photo/Jens Meyer
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Earlier this year, the Quartz at Work team decided to try a 30-minute exercise that we hoped would make us collectively less anxious and more productive.

We each wrote user manuals—guides to our work styles, preferences, and values—and exchanged them with one another.

The exercise has been recommended by CEOs, entrepreneurs, and executive coaches as a way to “shorten the learning curve” for new teams as they figure out how to work together. As a new team ourselves, having launched the Quartz at Work website in October, we took up the project in earnest. But the user manual exercise in practice was more complicated than in theory.

Not everyone felt comfortable sharing. “Since when did it become necessary to participate in the written equivalent of a trust fall just to get your work done?” wrote one of my colleagues, reflecting on the exercise.

Others felt as though we didn’t share enough. “I’m a millennial and I can’t get my older colleagues to be vulnerable,” wrote another coworker. “Help!”

Still, in the end we each came away with a new understanding of one another, and most of us thought the exercise was worthwhile. Here are some of our takeaways:

Khe Hy unpacks how user manuals helped boost our team’s digital empathy.

Millennial Leah Fessler explains how reading our team’s user manuals helped her appreciate how other generations work.

Oliver Staley, on the other hand, describes how user manuals helped him better understand his millenial coworkers.

And Corinne Purtill wrote about how sharing her feelings with her coworkers was terrible, but ultimately made her a better teammate.