The Gallup Organization recently conducted a research study that found that people who have a best friend at work are more engaged in their job than those who don’t. Conducted using a random sample of U.S. workers, the survey found that 51 percent of participants who strongly agreed with the statement “I have a best friend at work” reported being highly engaged in their work, compared to just 10 percent of those who disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement.
Building strong relationships at work is important, but it can take some doing, especially if there are people you work with whom you don’t naturally get along with. In this article, we’ll look at why good working relationships are important and discuss ways to build and strengthen your relationships in the workplace.
Why Are Good Relationships So Important?
Good relationships in the workplace lead to higher job satisfaction and a better sense that you’re working to your full potential, according to the Gallup study. Karen Jenn, a professor of management at the Wharton Business School, points out that friends at work are able to challenge each other’s ideas in a constructive, productive way, and people are more willing to take healthy risks at work when they have a strong, friendly support system in the office.
The benefits of good working relationships, even when working remotely, are far-reaching and include a higher level of innovation and creativity in the workplace as well as the ability to focus on opportunities rather than spending energy trying to overcome the problems associated with poor work relationships. Good work relationships promote a high level of cooperation, and they make it more likely that others will agree on changes you want to implement or projects you want to work on.
What Does a Good Working Relationship Look Like?
A healthy working relationship is built on several important characteristics:
- Open, honest communication. Whether we’re in a face-to-face meeting, on a telephone conference, or communicating via email, open and honest communication with coworkers leads to better relationships and a higher level of mutual respect.
- Embracing diversity. Most workplaces employ a diverse group of people with varying opinions and different ways of looking at a problem or challenge. This type of diversity is a valuable asset in any business, and the ability to embrace it and consider the opinions and ideas of others leads to innovation and better decision-making.
- Mindfulness in word and action. Taking responsibility for your words and actions goes a long way toward fostering healthy relationships at work. Mindful people consider their words carefully, communicate honestly, and don’t let their own negative emotions impact others.
- Mutual respect. Mutual respect among coworkers leads to better solutions in the workplace as each member of a team values the input and ideas of the others.
- Trust. Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Trust among coworkers forms a powerful bond that facilitates communication and working together. Mutual trust enables coworkers to communicate honestly andeffectively, and it prevents wasting time and energy on having to watch your back.
The Most Important Good Relationships to Form at Work
Of course we should strive to build healthy relationships with everyone in the workplace, from the receptionist to the CEO, but a few key relationships are particularly beneficial when they’re based on trust, respect, and honest communication.
- Key stakeholders. Building strong, healthy relationships with the people who have a stake in the success or failure of your position and the organization as a whole can help you keep your career and your projects on track.
- Clients and customers. Clients and customers are the bread and butter of any organization, and maintaining healthy, honest relationships with them can lead to long-term loyalty, consistent sales, and rewarding deals. When things don’t work out for a customer, having a good relationship can help you iron out problems and make things right in a way that satisfies the customer and reinforces your commitment to excellence in their mind.
- Management. Having the reputation of being a team player who respects the beliefs and ideas of others will likely get the attention of those who are higher up, and it can help further your career and enable you to work on projects that resonate with you.
Helpful Tips for Building Good Work Relationships
Building good relationships at work takes time. Patience and persistence go a long way toward fostering healthy working relationships, and certain skills can help you improve your existing relationships and build new ones. These tipscan help you master healthy, happy relationships at the office.
- Develop your people skills. “People skills” include soft skills like empathy, communication, listening, conflict resolution, problem-solving, and collaboration. Good people skills are the foundation of good relationships, and you can find excellent resources for improving these skills online.
- Work on your relationships every day. Make a point to spend, say, 20 minutes a day working on your relationships. Small interactions like taking a busy colleague a cup of coffee, offering to help out a colleague in even a small way, inviting someone to lunch, or replying to posts (outside of business hours) by colleagues on social media are small ways to help build relationships, and they take very little time or effort.
- Identify your needs. Intuitively identifying your own needs in a relationship can give you insight into what others’ needs might also be. Your relationship needs might include regular face time, a little humor, and emotional support.
- Develop your emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of your and others’ emotions, express your emotions appropriately, and handle interpersonal relationships with empathy and good judgment. High emotional intelligence goes a long way toward making healthy relationships easier to develop and maintain.
- Show your appreciation. Recognizing others for their contributions and showing your appreciation when someone helps you out is important when developing good work relationships. Everyone likes to be recognized, and honest, genuine compliments can help endear you to others.
- Maintain a positive attitude. People are drawn to positivity, and they’re repelled by negativity. Positivity is contagious. Try to take a positive spin on things, which will make others want to be around you.
- Set and manage your boundaries. Boundaries are important in work relationships, and knowing what your boundaries are and sticking with them are crucial for maintaining healthy relationships. Know when a work relationship is negatively impacting your job, such as when a colleague tries to monopolize your time, and assertively (but politely) defend your boundaries.
- Never gossip. The best way to kill a great work relationship is to gossip behind a colleague’s back. Gossiping almost always makes things worse, especially when it gets back to the subject of the gossip, which it usually does. Gossiping will undermine others’ trust in you, including the people you gossip with.
- Practice good listening skills. Listening to others and really hearing what they’re saying is a cornerstone of a good relationship. Active listening is a skill that comes in handy in the workplace and includes making an effort to hear not just the words that are being spoken but also the message that’s being sent. Avoid letting yourself be distracted while others are talking, and don’t focus on formulating your response until they’re done speaking. Maintain eye contract, and acknowledge your colleague’s words with a nod of the head, an “uh, huh,” or by asking relevant questions to help clarify anything that’s not clear.
The Challenge of Difficult Relationships
Every now and then, you’ll encounter a colleague or client whom you can’t really relate to or who rubs you the wrong way. Although this is to be expected, it doesn’t let you off the hook when it comes to working to forge a good relationship despite these feelings.
When you have to work with someone you don’t like, make an effort to focus on the positive. Try to get to know the person a little better. Understanding what makes them tick can help you approach the relationship with a little more empathy. Consider asking the person out for lunch or coffee to get to know each other a little better, especially if it’s a relationship that’s key to doing your job. Focus on things you have in common, and let the conflicts go as best you can. Not all work relationships will be sweet and rosy, but with a little effort, you can make sure they’re workable.