Building relationships in the workplace is often vital. In most cases, you have to work with others — even those you don’t like — to successfully perform your job. Some company cultures emphasize teamwork, communication and mutual respect. Moreover, you spend many waking hours at work and making real connections with colleagues can make this time more enjoyable. The characteristics of building workplace relationships can be different than building other types of relationships. The main strategy is to take advantage of basic social principles while tailoring your interactions to a business environment.
Holding good conversations is one of the easiest ways to build relationships. Whether you’re stopping by a co-worker’s office, sharing a business lunch or taking part in a holiday function, good speaking and listening skills will open the avenues for professional friendship. Inappropriate topics like religion, politics and sex should be avoided. Safer topics include current events, sports and positive company developments. Be sure to have tact — never gossip, correct vocabulary or grammar, or ignore others in your conversations.
Conflicts occur at work just as they do in other areas of life. While challenging, conflicts offer the opportunity to sharpen your relationship skills. Conflicts are guides for you and colleagues to pay attention to. Examples include how you respectively value particular work activities, engage in those activities or communicate about them. The process of sharing different experiences or points of view can turn out to be energizing and enlightening. To manage conflicts, you must ultimately be open to brainstorming solutions, be willing to compromise and show respect for the other person.
Even on the best days jobs can be demanding. If you are encouraging to fellow workers, you'll do much to build solid relationships with them. It’s difficult to encourage others when your own outlook is negative. Ensure that you adapt constructive responses to stress and focus your thinking beyond problems, to solutions. You can then genuinely share your positivity with co-workers through recognition of their progress, humor and simple kindness. In addition to giving others the chance to see your lighter side, encouraging co-workers can help them to be more productive.
The ability to be loyal is highly prized in the workplace. It’s rare to find people who seek to climb the corporate ladder while being equally invested in protecting and defending their colleagues and superiors. Building workplace relationships is about respecting the fact that co-workers are themselves trying to accomplish goals. It is therefore important to understand, appreciate and acknowledge their abilities. As you would in relationships outside of the workplace, your commitment should translate into not sabotaging progress or condemning mistakes.
Kenya Lucas has been writing professionally since 1998. Her work has appeared in “Anthropology & Medicine,” “New Directions for Evaluation,” “Psychology of Women Quarterly” and “Journal of the Grant Professionals Association.” She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins University and Brown University.