The insanely intelligent Isaac Newton once said, "If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” (See Reference 5) Chances are, there's more than a few giants at your workplace. They may not be who you think they are, either. And even if most people are somewhat shorter in stature, cultivating positive relationships with your colleagues is still worth it. You'll enjoy having someone to exercise with during lunch and feel grateful for a coworker who's willing to give you honest feedback about your latest proposal.
Focus on what you can bring to the table, not what others can do for you. Rather than calculating whether or not the ROI of helping a colleague finish her report, do it because you value her as a fellow human being trying to eek out a living 40 hours a week. (See Reference 3)
Show that you value your relationship. If the only time you stop by your colleague's office is when you need to borrow her stapler or ask if she'll cover the phones for you at lunch -- again -- she won't be very happy to see you. Ask how her daughter's first day at kindergarten went or drop by with an extra breakfast burrito.
Lend a hand. Let your colleagues know you're ready and able to assist when the copier goes on the blink or they need a hand setting up for a presentation. Not only will you be more likely to get help in return, but you'll establish a basis for building a closer relationship.
Invite a coworker to have lunch with you at the new bistro down the street. While you're enjoying their inventive Havarti-spinach quiche, you can learn more about her life other than the fact she works in accounting and carries Kate Spade bags. Ask her about her family and aspects of her job you're unfamiliar with, such as how long it took to learn the company's 1,200 page fiscal operating policy.
Include everyone in your circle of potential work friends. Don't overlook the person who answers the phones, brings the mail or vacuums the office floor. Seeking work relationships only with higher ups or rising stars is short-sighted. When the maintenance guy rushes to fix your thermostat after the prima donna down the hall has been waiting for a week, you'll be thankful you weren't snooty. (See Reference 1)
Remember your manners. While some people won't notice if you forget to thank them after they've held a door open for you, some will be affronted. The words "please," "thank you" and "you're welcome" go a long way towards building relationships in the workplace. (See Reference 2)
Ask questions that have the potential to deepen the relationship and then listen to what your coworker has to say. Andrew Sobel and Jerald Panas, authors of "Power Questions: Build New Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others," advise asking questions such as "How did you get started?" and "Tell me more." (See Reference 4) You may be one of the few people at the office who is interested in another person's story.
- Corporate Incentive Travel: Building Positive Workplace Relationships
- Inc.: How to Build Better Business Relationships
- Fast Company: The 5 Biggest Mistakes You're Making With Work Relationships
- Power Questions: Build New Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others; Andrew Sobel and Jerald Panas (Wiley, 2012)
- The Quotations Page: Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727)
- Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images