In the early years of your career, your focus is often on proving your worth and developing and displaying your skillset. Whilst this is an incredibly good use of your time, it’s just as important to invest energy in building good working relationships with your colleagues.
Good working relationships can reap a wide range of benefits for your career and your happiness at work. Having people to interact with in the workplace gives you a support network – someone to talk to if you are struggling or stressed. The shared experience of a workforce who maintain good relationships enables all involved to learn something new from their colleagues, empowering the team to develop as individuals and as a whole.
Progressing in your career will be made easier if you put time into getting to know your colleagues. When the time comes to apply for promotions, those making decisions are more likely to be aware of who you are and what you bring to the table.
Action these seven steps to help you improve your working relationships.
It can be easy to forget about interacting with your colleagues amid the hustle and bustle of the modern workplace. Set aside time to engage with your colleagues throughout the day. This does not have to eat into your working hours, as time could be something as small as making cups of tea with a colleague or sitting with someone on your lunch break.
Try and keep at least 20 minutes per day set aside for building working relationships. You could even split this time into five minute blocks throughout the day, giving you a chance to take a break from work.
Talking to colleagues and building relationships can even be done at your desk.
When interacting with your colleagues make sure you are giving them your full attention. Use active listening techniques to let them know that you are invested in what they are saying and want to offer support and advice.
Active listening increases the amount of attention you are paying to a speaker and helps to ensure that their full message is conveyed to you. To maximise your listening ability train yourself to not be distracted by what is going on around you.
Use facial cues to acknowledge what the speaker is saying without interrupting them – such as nodding your head and smiling. When appropriate, show that you are engaged and listening by asking a question to develop and continue the conversation.
As you develop your relationships, do not become reliant on those around you without giving anything back. A small show of appreciation goes a long way in securing goodwill towards and further improving your interactions with colleagues.
Thank people when they help you out with something, no matter how small. Send them articles you think will interest them, to show that you have engaged with and appreciated their conversation.
One sure fire way to show gratitude to your co-workers is to bring in a treat for everyone to share, a bit of home-baking, or even shop bought alternatives are an easy way of showing your colleagues that you appreciate their help and support. Plus, as everyone gathers round the cake tin you have even more opportunity for interaction and relationship-building.
At work it can sometimes be easy to complain about things that are stressing you out. This is acceptable conversation with your colleagues who will often be able to help ease the load, but you should try and focus on positive topics a lot of the time.
Discuss things that are going well at the office – what have you and your colleagues done that has hit objectives? Don’t limit yourself to topics in the office, whilst being respectful of boundaries with your colleagues you can still discuss a range of topics from outside of the workplace. Try and find common ground in sport, music and entertainment, offering light relief if things get a bit heavy.
Different members of your team will have different strengths and different qualities. Although it can be difficult to engage with someone who approaches things differently to you, it’s worth it. Appreciating the range of qualities in your workplace will allow you to get along with a wider group of people and will also highlight alternative ways of doing things.
Combining workers who are very laid back with some who are very organised, for example, can often create a project where the best of both of these approaches are highlighted. See working with a wide range of people as a benefit and you will soon see how much it can help you.
Building your working relationships does not have to be confined to the office. Arrange to get out and do things with your team. Many workplaces now organise company socials, which are great opportunities to get out and about with your colleagues in a new environment. Attending organised socials also often has the benefit of free food or drink so make the most of it!
If your company does not host socials, or you would like to do something else with your team, don’t be shy. Organise a night out or weekend activity, team building activities don’t have to be something scary like an outdoor pursuits course, why not try a cooking session or even just a post-work drink once a month.
Interacting with your colleagues outside of the office can highlight new interests that you share and help to improve bonds that have already been forged.
Remember your Needs
Workplace relationships are still two-way streets. Do not put loads of energy into a relationship if you do not feel that this is being reciprocated. If you are in a situation where you feel someone is taking advantage of your kindness try to rectify this by having a quiet, friendly and relaxed conversation addressing the issue; don’t be afraid to tell people what you need from them in terms of support.
Do you know any sure-fire ways to improve working relationships? Let us know on Twitter @viking_chat.