Human beings are naturally social creatures – we crave friendship and positive interactions, just as we do food and water. So it makes sense that the better our relationships are at work, the happier and more productive we're going to be.
Good working relationships give us several other benefits: our work is more enjoyable when we have good relationships with those around us. What's more, good relationships give us freedom and energise us: instead of spending time and energy overcoming the problems associated with negative relationships, we can, instead, focus on opportunities and collaborating to achieve great outcomes.
We also need good working relationships with others in our professional circle. Customers, suppliers, and key stakeholders are all essential to our success. So, it's important to build and maintain good relations with these people.
Defining a Good Relationship
There are several characteristics that make up good, healthy working relationships:
- Trust – This is the foundation of every good relationship. When you trust your team and colleagues, you form a powerful bond that helps you work and communicate more effectively. If you trust the people you work with, you can be open and honest in your thoughts and actions, and you don't have to waste time and energy "watching your back."
- Mutual Respect – When you respect the people that you work with, you value their input and ideas, and they value yours. Working together, you can develop solutions based on your collective insight, wisdom and creativity.
- Mindfulness – This means taking responsibility for your words and actions. Those who are mindful are careful and attend to what they say, and they don't let their own negative emotions impact the people around them.
- Welcoming Diversity – People with good relationships not only accept diverse people and opinions, but they welcome them. For instance, when your friends and colleagues offer different opinions from yours, you take the time to consider what they have to say, and factor their insights into your decision-making.
- Open Communication – We communicate all day, whether we're sending emails or meeting face-to-face. The better and more effectively you communicate with those around you, the richer your relationships will be. All good relationships depend on open, honest communication.
Where to Build Good Relationships
Although we should try to build and maintain good working relationships with everyone, there are certain relationships that deserve extra attention.
For instance, you'll likely benefit from developing good relationships with key stakeholders in your organisation; the relationships within your organisational processes that help you to provide the internal or external service to your customers. Forming a bond and collaborative approach with these people will help you ensure that the services you provide meet their needs.
To find out who these people are, do a Stakeholder Analysis. Once you've created a list of colleagues who have an interest in your projects and the services you provide, you can devote time to building and managing these relationships.
Clients and customers are another group who deserve extra attention. Maintaining honest, trusting relationships with your customers can help you ensure that if things do go wrong, damage is kept to a minimum. Good relationships with clients and customers can also lead to improved processes, services and outcomes.
How to Build Good Work Relationships
So, what can you do to build better relationships at work?
Develop Your People Skills
Good relationships start with good people skills. Soft skills" such as collaboration, communication and conflict resolution are important. Understand where your strengths and weaknesses are and work on improving your people skills.
Identify Your Relationship Needs
Look at your own relationship needs. Do you know what you need from others? And do you know what they need from you? Understanding these needs can be instrumental in building better relationships. Tools such as Customer Modelling can assist to understand what these people require from you, how important these are and how well you are doing.
Schedule Time to Build Relationships
Devote a portion of your day toward relationship building, even if it's just 20 minutes, perhaps broken up into five-minute segments.
For example, you could pop into someone's office during lunch, reply to people's postings on Twitter or LinkedIn , or ask a colleague out for a quick cup of coffee.
These little interactions help build the foundation of a good relationship, especially if they're face-to-face.
Focus on Your Emotional Intelligence (EI)
Also, spend time developing your emotional intelligence (EI). Among other things, this is your ability to recognise your own emotions, and clearly understand what they're telling you.
High EI also helps you to understand the emotions and needs of others.
Show your appreciation whenever someone helps you. Everyone, from your Principal to the office cleaner, wants to feel that their work is appreciated. So, genuinely compliment the people around you when they do something well. This will open the door to great work relationships.
Focus on being positive. Positivity is attractive and contagious, and it will help strengthen your relationships with your colleagues. No one wants to be around someone who's negative all the time.
Manage Your Boundaries
Make sure that you set and manage boundaries properly – all of us want to have friends at work, but, occasionally, a friendship can start to impact our jobs, especially when a friend or colleague begins to monopolise our time.
If this happens, it's important that you're assertive about your boundaries, and that you know how much time you can devote during the work day for social interactions.
Don't gossip – office politics and "gossip" are major relationship killers at work. If you're experiencing conflict with someone in your group, talk to them directly about the problem. Gossiping about the situation with other colleagues will only exacerbate the situation, and will cause mistrust and animosity between you.
Practice active listening when you talk to your customers and colleagues. People respond to those who truly listen to what they have to say. Focus on listening more than you talk, and you'll quickly become known as someone who can be trusted.
Who are your stakeholders? Who are your external clients/customers? Who are your internal customers? What do you do to build strong relationships with them? What could you do to improve relationships with your stakeholders/customers/clients?