Connecting through Social Contracts

cloths pin - close line

The thought of a thing is often more fulfilling than it’s reality. I wonder if that’s true of social contracts for organizations.

We talk about connecting, but what are we doing to create, deepen, and protect connections.

Talk is self-affirming gibberish without action.

Words or Actions:

Ask leaders if they believe in connecting and they’ll raise their eyes like you’re stupid.

But ask, “What are you doing to help people connect?” and they look stupid.

Stop babbling and create social contracts that define, deepen, and protect relationship within your organization.


Invite everyone to participate in crafting a social contract. Don’t create it for people.

Engage people if you expect them to be engaged.

Develop an agreed upon social contract by addressing topics like:

  1. How do you want to be treated by co-workers?
  2. How do you want to treat co-workers?
  3. Describe unacceptable relationship violations. (How do you not want to be treated?)
  4. What is the goal of connecting with co-workers?
  5. How can we help people connect?

Define your aspirations for relationship.


Describe rewards, recognition, and honor for outstanding success in upholding social contracts. Dinner out or leave work at noon on Friday, for example.


Create agreed upon consequences for violations of your social contract. Focus on fun consequences like paying fines for minor offenses. Don’t wait for big stuff.


Start meetings by asking, “Who have you seen upholding our social contract? What did they do?”


Review your social contract every six months to keep it fresh and top of mind.


Build social contracts on an individual level if not organizationally, try addressing topics like:

  1. What does support, respect, or encouragement look like to you?
  2. I feel connected when…?
  3. Our work relationship is strengthened when… (weakened when)
  4. I commit to…

I’ve never seen or developed a social contract for an organization. Have you?

What are the pros and cons of developing social contracts? How would you develop and implement a social contract?

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