The Co-Worker Code

Productivity Respect Teamwork


Key Point: Do you know about the “co-worker code?” Well, probably not, because I just made the term up as a way of describing something I’m paying more attention to these days. It’s the magic that happens when the relationship between co-workers transcends almost all else. It is more than teamwork, yet it is fundamental to becoming a great team. The “code” is like an unspoken secret handshake, where people working together come to understand that what happens between them matters most. They will never intentionally let each other down. While the views of managers and others count, the “thumbs up” approval of the co-worker code is at the top of the ladder of importance.

Recently, I was presented with some data that reinforced (more than any other factor) a great place to work is influenced by what happens between teammates. Obviously having a compelling purpose and great leadership is necessary, but is surprisingly insufficient for achieving workplace greatness. Have we really paid enough attention to what takes place between co- workers?

I really do pay attention to what Google does in part because they throw incredible resources and analytics behind what they focus on. The following refers to a team productivity study Google recently undertook, and I think it might be related to my early thinking about the co-workers code. As per the Feb. edition of Quartz:

“Google wants to know the secret to building a more productive team. The tech giant charged a team to find out. The project, known as Project Aristotle, took several years, and included interviews with hundreds of employees and analysis of data about the people on more than 100 active teams at the company… Google’s data-driven approach ended up highlighting what leaders in the business world have known for a while; the best teams respect one another’s emotions and are mindful that all members should contribute to the conversation equally. It has less to do with who is in a team, and more with how a team’s members interact with one another.”

The obvious and simple “aha” behind this, seems to be a nest of psychological safety that high performing co-worker teams ideally achieve. The magic or “code” happens when teammates deeply care for one another, and accept the authentic contributions of all. When that happens, in consort with a compelling company purpose and great leadership; well, it becomes cultural magic. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Pay more attention to the co-worker code and conditions for psychological safety between teammates. Allow for co-workers to invest in it. If you’re a leader, promote it. And consciously advance it with your own co-workers.
  1. Remember that after every meeting, co-workers are texting or talking to each other starting with the question… “What did you think about that?” We know the answer to that really matters. Make it matter more by promoting the co-worker code to find the magic. 

Co-worker Code in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Good, relatable co-workers aren’t always going to be in our control. They’re not exactly a group of friends we can pick out, but maybe it’s one of those things that we might want to be more picky about. When I hear stories of friends who have co-workers they enjoy spending time away from work with, I know that wherever I wind up next, I’ll be looking for a similar situation. I can’t wait for that job interview where I find a company who spends weekends like I do, or has similar past experiences and passions. I feel like a company with likeminded individuals “on and off the field” will likely create the best results and be a pleasure to be part of.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis