Strengthening Relationships at Work


It doesn’t matter if your job is mostly solitary or if you interact with others all day. Positive relationships at work contribute significantly to your productivity, job satisfaction – even your position and pay! Here are some strategies to build better connections with colleagues.

Say Good Morning!

Sure, everyone’s busy and there’s no need for fanfare, but greeting others, even with a nod and a smile, is just plain good manners. And like all good manners, it’s really about showing respect for the others. Saying good morning is an easy way to make a simple connection and make others feel appreciated.

Welcome New Employees

Reach out to new employees by introducing yourself and offer to answer questions. Not only will they feel welcome to the team sooner, they will appreciate you as an early ally.

Go to the Source

No one likes being ambushed. If you discover a problem, speak to the person responsible first, instead of going over their head or complaining to others. By going to the source, that person has a chance to address the situation appropriately. If you’d made the error, wouldn’t you rather tell your boss yourself and prepare some possible solutions? When you give people a chance to rectify problems, they trust and respect you more—and they’re more likely to show you the same courtesy if you ever stumble.

Don’t Play the Blame Game

If you do make a mistake, own it. Pointing fingers is petty, and making someone a scapegoat is sure to backfire. It’s better to clearly identify your part in the problem, apologize sincerely, and move on to fix it. Casting blame erodes trust and respect.

Shine a Light

When things go well, be sure to congratulate others on their successes. Follow the old wisdom to “criticize privately, praise publicly”. If you can acknowledge someone’s achievements in a sincere, natural way in the company of others, do so. When someone has contributed something significant to one of your projects, send them an email expressing your appreciation—and copy their supervisor. Shine a light when others do well and the whole office feels brighter.

Follow Up

A great way to tie up the end of a project and strengthen relationships is to do a basic follow up. When you thank participants, invite their perspective on how the project unfolded. Even if everything was a huge success, you’ll often gain insight on how to make even better use of time and resources. It also lets people know you don’t consider them expendable, and value them for more than just their contribution to your project.

Find Solutions

There’s always something going wrong somewhere—it’s easy to complain. Popular culture often glorifies clever criticism and encourages humour involving snide remarks and put-downs. It’s certainly a valuable skill to be able to analyse a project and uncover its flaws and risks. But it will boost your work relationships and your career if you don’t complain and instead look for creative, practical ways to address any problems you see. Put simply: be solution-oriented. Many of the best solutions are built by seeking other people’s viewpoints, working collaboratively, and compromising wisely.

Don’t Gossip

Repeating information of uncertain origin or stories about others has a toxic effect. It also undermines your credibility and trustworthiness. If others try to draw you into a questionable discussion, stay neutral, say little, and excuse yourself as soon as you can (because you have another urgent obligation to attend to: your reputation). Exercise the same level of discretion in your social media use. Don’t ever complain about or discuss work on your Facebook or Twitter account. If you enjoy gossip, grab a magazine at the grocery store check-out!

Do What You Say You’ll Do

Almost too obvious, but honouring your commitments (even small ones like, “I’ll send you that file today”) is so important it has to be included. By the same token, don’t rush to sign up for tasks you’re not sure you can deliver. There’s nothing wrong with saying you need to assess your workload or schedule before you commit. It demonstrates respect for others’ time and efforts equally, whether you take on the job or decline for good reason.

Use Your Resources

Even if you use these strategies, workplace relationships sometimes turn sour. Or perhaps you work with someone who blames, ambushes, gossips and complains, but isn’t held accountable. Under these circumstances, it may be appropriate to ask your boss or another mentor for workplace advice and support. If that’s not an option, and you don’t feel you can resolve things yourself, consider contacting your Employee Assistance Program, which will connect you with professional support resources. The benefits of maintaining and building positive relationships with your colleagues are well worth the effort.

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