Business is built on personal relationships. People who know and trust each other often go the extra mile to support each other and more easily get past the inevitable speed bumps that crop up in the workplace. The old adage “to have friends, you have to be a friend” really does hold true. Don't wait for others to reach out, because relationship building starts with you.
Getting to Know You
People are more likely to connect with you if they know you as more than a robot who cranks out work. Take the initiative by sharing a bit about yourself on a personal level. Don't bore colleagues with your whole life story, but share short stories about a similar work situation you encountered in the past, or about how you had to stay up late last night because of your child's school project. These stories make you more approachable, and open the door to connections with others who have similar life experiences.
Your mother knew what she was talking about when she taught you to say “thank you." Do it early and often in the business world. People are more inclined to help you a second time if they perceive you as appreciative. You can show your gratitude through a follow up phone call or a short email. It's even more powerful if you express your appreciation by highlighting the exceptional effort to the person's boss. Or, you can go a more personal route by dropping by with a brownie, muffin or cup of coffee to say thanks.
Help Others, Even When It’s Not Your Job
Just as you need a little help from time to time, so do your colleagues. Be generous in doing professional favors, which are the invisible currency of the business world. You should never keep score, but helping others builds a spirit of cooperation and a team outlook that will rebound in your direction many times over. And, you'll get a reputation as a problem-solver, which management will notice and reward.
Take the Tough Stuff Offline
No one likes to lose face in front of others. If your colleague, subordinate or even your boss has done something that you disagree with or feel is wrong, don't address the issue in a meeting or even in the Land of Cubicles where others are likely to overhear. Take the discussion to a private office, or ask the person to meet you in the cafeteria or take a walk together. There are times when it's appropriate to express a differing opinion in a meeting, but always do so without attacking or insulting the individual who made the suggestion. Respect is the key to any healthy relationship.
A retired federal senior executive currently working as a management consultant and communications expert, Mary Bauer has written and edited for senior U.S. government audiences, including the White House, since 1984. She holds a Master of Arts in French from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Arts in English, French and international relations from Aquinas College.