How to build strong relationships in the workplace
The relationships you build with your colleagues have the potential to shape your entire working experience. Though half of all employees in firms with more than 250 workers dislike one or more colleagues, one-third of us have a best friend at work.
Indeed, in an article for the Harvard Business Review, Christine M. Riordan, provost and professor of management at the University of Kentucky, highlights the value of friendships at work, saying that the friendships you create in the workplace can make us more feel more engaged and supported in our professional roles.
No matter what you do—from support and project management, to application development and business intelligence—our professional relationships are essential in order for us to be effective and successful at what we do. Though it’s logical to want to focus on good relationships, it’s also important to manage the difficult ones. Here, we explore both sides of the coin.
Good working relationships are built on trust, mindfulness and respect. When maintained properly, they provide a mutually supportive and constructive environment that can improve both productivity and morale. Here’s how to get it right:
- Be courteous. Common courtesy goes a long way when it comes to creating a pleasant work environment. Even if you’re deep in a project, always acknowledge other people, even if it’s just with a wave or a nod. Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and if you’re having a bad day, don’t take it out on other people.
- Communicate effectively. Communicating with your co-workers should leave nothing to chance. Whether it’s in person, on the phone or by email, be professional, clear, and concise. Use relevant subject lines in emails and respond to all communications in a timely manner. It’s also important that you give feedback to your coworkers: in a market where 60% of workers want to see their colleagues praised for good work more frequently, it’s important to recognise other peoples’ achievements as it increases office morale and makes people feel appreciated.
- Be respectful of other people’s time. Everybody has deadlines to meet and projects to complete; with that in mind, it’s important to realise when people need their own space, and when to give it to them. If you need to speak to somebody and they are busy, come back later or send them an email to schedule in a meeting. This will not only help them to avoid stress, but create a culture of respect and thoughtfulness within the office.
- Develop your Emotional Intelligence (EI). Understanding how your own emotions can affect your work, and being able to empathise with others, goes a long way in maintaining good relationships within the office. Emotional Intelligence is directly tied to your performance at work, and explains 58% of success in jobs across the spectrum. If you’re upset with somebody, don’t take it personally. Take some time before you talk to them and try to see things from the other person’s perspective. Not only will this let you be more objective about what’s going on, but it will enable you to empathise and work with the other person to find a solution to a problem that will suit both of you.
Difficult relationships at work are challenging, but they can be managed so they don’t affect your well-being or productivity. Here’s how:
- Welcome diverse opinions. Other people’s opinions, especially when they don’t match yours, can offer you insights that you might never have considered before. Don’t be offended: these viewpoints could provide you with valuable information and approaches to projects that could potentially be extremely helpful. Don’t disregard anybody’s input without carefully evaluating its validity; in the workplace, it’s important to keep an open mind!
- Be direct. Guarded conversations not only make it hard to speak plainly, but contribute to a mistrustful workplace, which can hinder productivity and damage projects. Instead, be honest and direct in a polite and professional manner, even if what you’re saying might be hard for other people to hear. This will create a culture where people feel comfortable speaking their minds, and will make it easier to work toward solutions that benefit everybody.
- Be welcoming. No matter who you do or do not like, it’s important to be professional and put business above everything else. Make yourself available for discussions and meetings, and don’t be afraid to stop by colleagues’ desks to ask for advice, or to chase up work. If you evade your colleague, you cannot effectively do your job; instead, be open and friendly.
- Don’t gossip. Gossiping is one of the worst career mistakes you can make. Not only can it be hurtful and antagonising; it can also come back to haunt you later on in your career. Though building relationships and friendships with the people you work with is an important aspect of life at any office, it’s important to refrain from getting involved. It’s much more productive to concentrate on your work, not how you feel about the people you work with.
Relationships at work can play a large role in our happiness, and in cultivating a productive and efficient working atmosphere within the office, as well as creating a healthy company culture. It’s vital to build good relationships while simultaneously managing the difficult ones in order to make sure everybody works well together. Though you’re not at work solely to make friends, you’re not there to make enemies either!