Build Better Relationships with Co-Workers

See also: Effective Team-Working Skills

If you’re in full-time employment, you probably spend more hours with your colleagues than with your family.

If you want to perform well at work, having good relationships with your colleagues is a big help – the Harvard Business Review reports that if you have a best friend in the workplace you’ll be ‘seven times more likely to engage fully’ with your job.

However, having good relationships with people at work isn’t just about performing well, securing promotions or getting a raise. Being able to share a joke with team members, or trusting them to help when you need assistance, will start to have positive effects on life outside of work.

Not everyone will get to the stage where co-workers are invited to parties, but anyone can improve their work relationships.

Asking yourself these questions and acting on them when necessary can help build better relationships at work. It’s by no means an exhaustive list – as every workplace and personality is different you’ll no doubt need to think of some questions of your own – but it should be a starting point to inspire you.

1: Do you really need to gossip?

Gossiping at work might provide a cheap thrill, and could even make you feel like you’re bonding with a fellow gossiper, but it’s one of the fastest ways to create a negative atmosphere void of trust in any workplace.

If you’re prone to giving into the temptation of gossiping, think of your avoidance strategies before you get into a compromising situation.

In the past I’ve tried to imagine how it would feel to be the subject of gossip, before turning the conversation onto plans for the weekend ahead.

Taking the opportunity to turn a negative interaction into a positive one is like a double-win.

2: How clearly do you communicate?

Think about some of the more recent problems you’ve had with co-workers (or friends and family for that matter). A common aspect of each problem is likely to be miscommunication.

Should you assume that when a co-worker says they need something by Tuesday that delivering it at 5pm that day is acceptable, or would it be better to clear things up with them well ahead of time?

Likewise, be as clear as you can with people about what you need, without leaving room for ambiguity.

3: Could you be more open-minded?

We all think our opinions are the best and the most important ideas, but not everyone has the same opinions.

When a co-worker has a differing opinion, take the time to listen and consider their view before you jump in and start a workplace debate. Saying that, there are some topics like religion and politics that you should steer clear of if you want a harmonious environment.

Be mindful – a comment that your friends find funny in the pub might be offensive to a workmate so always think about your actions.

4: Are you actively building relationships?

Devoting as little as 10 minutes of your work day to building relationships can make an immense difference.

Have a quick coffee with someone, enquire after a co-worker’s family, or take the time to ‘like’ something they’ve posted on social media.

Being generous by bringing in treats for co-workers from time to time is also a good habit to develop, but bear in mind that some people will have allergies or other issues that stop them from joining in – making a special effort to cater to them will really be appreciated.

5: Are you holding any grudges?

While you don’t want colleagues to walk all over you, perhaps it’s time to forget about that day last year when a co-worker took the credit for something you did or withheld information that you needed.

By showing them that you’re not interested in petty politics they might realise you’re no threat to them and be more open to positive collaboration.

6: Do you respect people the way you want them to respect you?

When you openly respect your co-workers you’ll gain that respect back yourself.

Don’t speak over people, don’t make work harder for people than it has to be and definitely don’t steal someone else’s sandwich. These are basic steps that don’t take much effort at all.

Could you be going out of your way to be more respectful at work?

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills eBooks.

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills

Develop your interpersonal skills with our series of eBooks. Learn about and improve your communication skills, tackle conflict resolution, mediate in difficult situations, and develop your emotional intelligence.

7: Do you recognise boundaries?

These questions are designed to help improve relationships at work, but you also need to recognise there may be limits.

Your co-workers might not want to hear about your personal problems in a place of business. This can be hard to judge, but it’s a skill worth developing.

Equally, even if you do find someone who is open to a friendly relationship beyond the confines of the office, remember that frequent social chatting could make others who are working hard resentful.

8: Do you bring positivity to the office?

Just like yawning, positivity is contagious. When one person is on a downer it can lead to everyone in the office feeling blue.

Inspire people with your positivity.

Of course we all have difficult days, but finding ways to cope with these that don’t involve making everyone else feel bad will be much better for you in the long run. If the situation becomes too much to control you may want to consider speaking confidentially with your manager and seeking professional advice.

About the Author

Stephen Pritchard writes about all things work related for Europe’s fastest growing job search engine Adzuna.