Why are work relationships important?
The American social psychologist ‘Stanley Milgram’ suggested that most people are connected to one another by just a chain of 6 acquaintances. This concept can apply when we consider building relationships at work. Our desire to feel connected to others is a basic human need which has a significant impact on our mental and physical health.
Close relationships are linked to health as they build biological systems which may protect against the adverse effects of stress. The brain releases oxytocin in response to social contact, a powerful hormone linked to trustworthiness and motivation to help others in the workplace. A significant contributor to workplace stress is psychosocial hazards related to the culture within an organisation, such as poor interpersonal relations and a lack of policies and practices related to respect for workers (Stoewen, 2016). So when we consider this in particular because we spend more time at work than almost any other aspect of our lives, it is so important that we establish good positive relationships in the workplace.
We are naturally social and we all know that good relationships make work more enjoyable, the definition of good according to dictonary.com – is someone or something that is efficient, useful, healthy, strong, happy or skilled. I can certainly testify during my time leading team that great work relationships help increase confidence and teamwork. This in turn helps the team embrace change and creates an environment of innovation and a supportive culture.
What are the key attributes of a good working relationship?
Building and maintaining good working relationships start with a culture of:
- Building trust
- Mutual respect
- Open and honest Communication
- Being Mindful in thought and actions
Dealing with negative relationships
Unfortunately, there are times, when you will have to work with someone you don’t get on with. With the rise of virtual workspaces, working from home really can benefit many colleagues from some time apart. But even communicating virtually can cause misunderstandings or tension.
Whilst it’s natural to avoid people who cause friction, it’s not always feasible or for the good of your team. So, here are a few tactics to mend or maintain a professional relationship.
Reflect on your positive history. If a good relationship has taken a turn for the worse, research shown that reflecting on positive experiences with a co-worker can strengthen a broken bond. Or if needed consider an impartial mediator to help find a quick resolution.
Look to yourself. When we feel negative about someone, we can become impatient, get angry, and demotivate others. I know that I encountered this in my early career. It is possible that others can direct those negative behaviours back at us. You might want to look at ‘The Betari Box model’ it teaches us how the attitude and behaviour of one person during an interaction affects the other person. The natural outcome of this is that if there is negative attitude or behaviour, they will continue to escalate until there is a conflict. SO to change behaviour in others, we need first to change our own behaviour.
Find mutually beneficial goals. A difficult relationship might be due to a power imbalance? You can use professor John Eldred’s power strategies model to identify any conflicting goals or power imbalances, and devise a method to communicate better and improve your relationship.
Trust: when you trust your team, you can be open and honest in your thoughts and actions. You don’t have to waste time or energy “watching your back”.
Respect: teams who work together with mutual respect, value one another’s input, and find solutions based on collective insight, wisdom, and creativity.
Self-awareness: this means taking responsibility for your words and actions and not letting your negative emotions impact the people around you.
Inclusion: don’t just accept diverse people and opinions, welcome them! For example, when your colleagues offer different opinions from yours, factor their insights and perspective – or “cultural add ” – into your decision-making.
Open communication: all good relationships depend on open, honest communication. Whether you’re sending emails or instant messages, meeting face-to-face or on video calls, the more effectively you communicate with those around you, the better you’ll connect.
Instead of spending time and energy dealing with negative relationships, you can, instead, focus on opportunities, from winning new business to focusing on personal development. Having a strong professional circle will also help you to develop your career/your business, opening up opportunities that otherwise might pass you by.
10 Steps to relationship building
Do not expect over night success, building close connections with people can take time. These are some key steps you can take today to help you build better relationships.
- Identify Your Relationship Needs. Maybe this one sounds a little unusual, do you know what you need from the other person? And do you know what they need from you? Understanding these needs can be instrumental in building better relationships.
- Develop Your People Skills. Good relationships start with good people skills and these are really important for both managers and team members.
- Focus on your Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is your ability to recognise your emotions, and better understand what they’re telling you. By developing your EI, you’ll become more adept at identifying and handling the emotions and needs of others.
- Practice Mindful Listening. People respond better to those who truly listen to what they have to say. By practicing mindful listening, really hearing what they other person says . By talking less you can understand more. This will help build trust which is essential in relationship building.
- Schedule Time to Build Relationships. You could ask a colleague out for a quick cup of coffee, Or give “one minute of kindness and support” by commenting on a colleagues LinkedIn post you enjoyed reading or report they wrote. These little interactions take time but lay the groundwork for strong relationships.
- Manage Your Boundaries. Make time, but not too much! Sometimes, a work relationship can impair productivity, especially when a friend or colleague begins to monopolise your time. It’s important to set your boundaries and manage how much time you devote to social interactions at work, being clear and transparent on this will help.
- Appreciate Others. Everyone, from your boss to the apprentice, wants to feel that their work is appreciated. So, genuinely compliment the people around you when they do something well. Give praise and support. Recognising others efforts and achievements will open the door to great work relationships.
- Be Positive. Focus on being positive., positivity is contagious and people gravitate to those that make them feel good.
- Avoid Gossiping. It is easy to get caught up in Office politics or gossip however it can ruin workplace relationships. If you’re experiencing conflict with someone in your group, talk to them directly about the problem. Gossiping with other colleagues will only exacerbate the situation, accelerating mistrust and animosity.
- Be open and honest. It is important that you are transparent in your conversations, be open and honest with the other person. Don’t lie or tell untruths this will damage the relationship.
About Tracy-Anne Barker;
I am the Founder and CEO of TA Barker Associates; we are a training and coaching business specialising in working with Business owners, Managers and HR Professionals so they can equip their managers and teams with the right skills to maximise their performance and have a high performing business that is sustainable.
Get in touch if you have any questions Tracy-Anne@tabarkerassociates.co.uk