We have all worked with that one person who has the reputation of not being a team player. Perhaps they use their smarts to find fault, place blame, and steal credit for work well done. Maybe they enjoy pointing out the glitches in processes, but rarely suggest solutions. They always seem to be nagging the supervisor for a bigger title or untimely raise. When they announce they are job hunting, not a single coworker suggest they stay. Those coworkers burn rather than build bridges almost from the start.
Workplace relationships can positively or negatively affect your job satisfaction as well as your ability to grow in a role and organization. When you build positive relationships at work, you feel more comfortable with your interactions and less threatened by others’ progress. You feel a closer bond to the people you’re working with, and you grow your influence with the organizational boundaries.
However, for many people, relationship building isn’t natural. Over the years, I have come across many employees who refuse to admit this. Everyone – even the most outgoing, engaging people – can improve their interpersonal skills. The tips listed below are for anyone who wants to build positive relationships in the workplace. Apply these tips to interactions with your manager, team members, colleagues, members of leadership, vendors, customers, and direct reports.
Communicate respectfully, clearly, and effectively.
The better you communicate with those you work with, the more positive and successful the relationship will be. This goes for emails, chat messages, phone calls, and face-to-face interactions. For better communication, the act of generous listening is paramount. It makes people feel seen—a basic human need. Active listening is also a skill worth consciously developing to respond with insight and empathy. What’s the difference? Active listening means you are giving the speaker your full attention—something that can be challenging in today’s world of email, Teams chat, and Zoom meetings. Generous listening means you are bringing an open mind to the conversation. You are aware of any preconceptions or biases you have about the person, the project, or the meeting itself.
Understand that relationships need to be cultivated with time, effort, and caring. So, make sure your coworkers or direct reports never feel neglected. Don’t be harsh when you disagree with them. Respect their inputs and try to explain your point of view with more empathy.
Change your attitude about mistakes.
If your co-worker or colleague makes a mistake, try to move past it as quickly as you can. Also, it becomes extremely important to acknowledge your mistakes if you are a team lead. Playing the blame game will not only tarnish the name of your team members but also your own. Yes, you may need to identify who was involved in a problem. You may even ask: “what process caused the direct report to fail?” Turn every mistake or failure into a teachable moment—a chance to learn and apply knowledge gained to future projects.
The bottom line for all work relationships should be to learn, grow, understand and implement. As important as it is to take feedback from other people, it is also important to give your feedback as long as it is at the right time and in the right tone.
Learn to take on responsibilities and help others.
When you work in a team, you must collaborate and build a positive working relationship with your teammates. So, when trusted with a job, accept it as your responsibility and avoid putting it off on someone else. Putting off work all the time will only end up creating a block between you and your peers—and it inhibits your colleagues’ success.
Take the time, and expend the energy, to thank, reward, and acknowledge the contributions of the people who help you succeed. It is a no-fail approach to building effective work relationships. If you are a manager, give your direct report the appreciation they need. Pat their backs and let them know how much you value their work. Do it honestly and not just for the sake of it. If you notice someone struggling, work together to find a solution. Don’t take on more work than you can handle, but offer to assist. Sometimes simply listening will help a direct report or peer reset their mind and succeed.
Try to maintain a positive attitude.
Positivity is contagious and people are drawn to those who exude it. Positivity creates energy and strengthens your relationships both with your colleagues and clients. So, if your team missed a deadline, you could focus on the positive by saying, “at least we’ll know how to manage our project the next time.”
Stay away from assumptions. Assuming something without proof can lead to resentment. Having the most generous interpretation of another person’s words, tone or actions frees up a lot of emotional energy. Gossiping is also a strict “no,” something you must avoid to maintain a positive attitude. If your co-workers try to engage you in gossip, politely steer the conversation the other way. If you’re the boss, you could even institute a “no gossip” rule. Be sure to model what you ask your team members to focus on.
Resolve conflicts amicably.
If someone in the team seems controlling, put the issue on the table without accusations or blame. Listen and then propose solutions such as going to a long lunch to talk about it or getting a facilitator to help improve the working relationship. Set a date that the solution will take place and make it happen.
Try to know each other better.
Social events such as team lunches, retreats, conferences, and fun Friday activities are good places to interact in an informal setting. Shared interests and experiences make it easier to build camaraderie. These might be anything from hobbies to books you both enjoy to life values you share, foods you like, or skills you’re working to develop. So, the next time you are early to a meeting, take a minute to chat with those around you. Do you both like board games? Are you both into adventure sports? Are your kids around the same age? You probably have something in common with all your co-workers. We’ve often talked about the importance of morning huddles in our business—those informal quick meetings are started with a fun question, providing a fun way to start the day, allowing the team to deepen their relationships in a very low-key way.
Final Thought: The better relationships at work, the happier, more engaged, and productive you will be. Instead of focusing your energy on problems that come with negative relationships, use that energy to grow more positive, creative, and impactful relationships. Thankfully, several actions form the basis for building effective interpersonal work relationships. You can start with some mentioned in this blog.communicationleadership lessonslearning at workSkill Development