How to create and maintain good working relationships
Strong and effective working relationships don't happen overnight, but there are several things you can do to start building these types of relationships with your colleagues, managers and relevant stakeholders straight away.
1. Make time to build relationships at work
The simplest thing you can do is to actively make time for those around you. All it takes is a spare five minutes to walk over to a colleague's desk and strike up a conversation. Whether it's work-related or not, those five minutes a day will help you build a connection and gain trust – the perfect ingredients for a positive working relationship.
2. Focus on building mutual trust with your colleagues
A relationship is nothing without trust, and your work relationships are no different; a working relationship is only effective when mutual trust exists. Amanda Augustine, suggests that delivering on commitments is an important way to build trust with your colleagues. Whether you volunteer yourself for a coffee run or schedule a training session with your team, follow through on your promises. Trust is reciprocal – when you can trust a colleague, they are more likely to feel like they can trust you.
At the centre of effective communication is good listening. While it's understandably important to share your own ideas and be able to speak up in front of colleagues, good communication and relationship building is dependent upon being able to listen to others.
When meeting new colleagues or associates, it's important to put your listening skills to good use. Show them that you're interested in getting to know them and ask questions about their role, their work background and their interests. Augustine recommends asking 'open-ended questions that will help you get to know your new work associate'. Colleagues are more likely to support one another in the workplace when they feel like they are listened to and respected.
4. Avoid office politics or gossip
Gossip: Every workplace has it. It may seem harmless to share, listen or contribute to, but in reality, it can be detrimental to both a positive work environment and your career. Office gossip has the powerful ability to foster disengagement and negative feelings toward your job, management and your company, resulting in dissatisfaction in the workplace. Similarly, if you gain a reputation as a gossip, your colleagues may lose trust in you. Therefore, if you're in the process of cultivating strong working relationships, gossip is your number one enemy.
It's important to find balance in good working relationships. Think of the old 'friendly but not too friendly' adage. You want to feel comfortable, respected and supported by your colleagues, but you want to try to avoid engaging in any conversations or behavior that doesn't belong in a professional environment.
So, how do you avoid workplace gossip? If you start to hear gossip in the workplace, simply remove yourself from the situation. Your workload is always a viable excuse: 'I've got a huge to-do list so I'm just going to sit in a meeting room with my laptop for the next hour', or, 'I need to concentrate on this task so I'm just going to pop my headphones in.'
5. Give praise where praise is due
If you want to cultivate authentic relationships with your colleagues, Augustine suggests giving credit to your co-workers when they've done a good job. Make a point of congratulating them on their successes or commenting on a project they've completed – anything that lets them know you've seen their hard work and think they've gone above and beyond. This is particularly important for people in management positions.
6. Handle difficult relationships with care
When dealing with the subject of building relationships at work, it's important to take care when handling difficult relationships. Others won't always agree with you, and that's OK; a difference of opinion can often be useful, as it might offer insight to something you hadn't thought of. If you are having trouble building a relationship with a colleague, remember to always respect their point of view and try to find a level of trust. Be direct and straightforward with your ideas so they know exactly where you stand, but also be welcoming toward their ideas. Try to view every interaction as a collaboration – two people with different backgrounds and ideas using their unique perspectives to achieve a common goal.
During the course of their career, the average British worker will have 812 work arguments and make 7,967 cups of coffee or tea for their colleagues. They will spend 14,053 hours commuting to and from the office and work, on average, 204 days of overtime. When you're spending all this time in the workplace, a positive work environment becomes essential to career satisfaction and overall happiness. Therefore, making time to create and maintain positive relationships in the workplace is well worth your time.