Along with having a good work ethic and excellent job performance, maintaining healthy relationships in the workplace is a key factor in career advancement. Between supervisors, co-workers and clients, the workplace requires the building of numerous relationships that must be maintained and balanced throughout your career. Whether cultivating new relationships or mending damaged ones, improving work relationships requires honest assessment, time and attention, personal interest, clear communication and sometimes a bit of humility.
Before making any attempt to improve or repair relationships at work, make an honest assessment of your interactions with others. Pay extra attention to verbal and nonverbal cues exhibited by co-workers that indicate their current opinions of you. Take stock of past disagreements to determine if the issues have been resolved. While you may consider the conflicts cleared up, others may still be upset. Also examine how well you and your co-workers know one another to avoid exhibiting overly familiar behavior.
With email, texts, instant messages, social networking and even voice mail, the business world has gone digital and added an extra challenge for those seeking to improve workplace relationships. The printed word doesn’t convey tone well, nor are the intentions of voice mail always properly interpreted. These digital tools also leave a permanent record of communications that some people may consider inappropriate. Refrain from using them for any social interactions aimed at improving relationships with co-workers. Instead, make the effort to engage in face-to-face communication, in person or via video chats.
Whether you’re right or wrong in a disagreement becomes less important if you intend to improve work relationships. Once you’ve made your point, be willing to cooperate and be flexible in order to reach a satisfactory resolution. Also be ready with a sincere apology to mend any bruised feelings if you must insist on your way for the good of the job. Humility may be necessary when interacting with someone who doesn’t remember you but should. Simply reintroduce yourself and develop a camaraderie so you’ll be remembered next time.
Disagreements can forever destroy workplace relationships. Before a conflict does any irreparable damage, suggest tabling the discussion to allow time for all parties involved to consider each other’s sides. In cases when you’ve been wronged, give yourself time to cool off, ideally a few hours or several days, before confronting the offending party to avoid escalating the incident.
Avoid Idle Chatter
Workplace gossip may be excitingly scandalous, but engaging in idle chatter about your co-workers often results in damaged relationships. Never talk about your colleagues or give your opinion on any circulating rumors. When these stories come up in conversations you’re already engaged in, indicate your unwillingness to gossip and do your best to redirect or leave the conversation.
Nothing goes further toward building new relationships or expanding established ones than an expression of interest in your co-worker as a person. Engage your colleagues in casual small talk to uncover any shared interests, such as hobbies, favorite movies or television shows, local sports teams or hometowns. Make note of those things you have in common to incorporate into future conversations.
Out to Lunch
Most workplace environments afford all too brief opportunities to connect with co-workers on a personal level. To truly get to know your colleagues, invite them out to lunch to a restaurant conducive to conversations. Whether dining with just a few or a whole crew of co-workers, the social setting encourages discussions on subjects other than work.
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