Building good work relationships can have a huge impact on how much you enjoy your job.
If you have solid relationships with your team, you’ll be excited to go to work. You’ll love the feeling of efficiency that comes with great teamwork.
This is the power of strong professional relationships. Your coworkers might not be your best friends, and they don’t have to be. What they are is a talented group of individuals that can help you thrive at work.
Plus, since the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do our jobs, building good work relationships is more important than ever. With the challenges we’ve faced over the past few years, we all need human connection. The workplace is no exception.
That said, building good work relationships takes time and intentional effort.
Why is building good work relationships important?
Workplace relationships are the interactions you have with your coworkers. You can evaluate how “good” the relationship is by your amicability, respect for each other, and ability to complete tasks together.
Anyone who’s worked in a toxic workplace knows why good work relationships are important. Team members who don’t build trust will struggle to be productive. If no one gets along, it creates a poor team culture and a negative work experience for you and others.
It can even spread to the company culture, affecting the viability of your employer. Plus, if you don’t feel like you belong, it can harm your mental health and contribute to burnout.
The same thing happens if you have a boss you don’t get along with. If you don’t have a good relationship with your boss, they might micromanage or prioritize other team members when opportunities arise. This can harm your job satisfaction and motivation to engage at work. Ultimately, it can hold you back from succeeding in your career.
The benefits of building good working relationships
Thankfully, positive relationships at work are entirely possible. Building great work relationships can work wonders for your career and daily work life. Here are just a few benefits:
- Increased job satisfaction. People often quit jobs or entire industries due to bad colleagues or managers. But when you build strong relationships, you can find purpose in your work all over again.
- Less discomfort during meetings. In a toxic workplace, people are afraid to speak up. But, with the help of good work relationships, you’ll feel empowered to share your ideas.
- More support from your colleagues. Work can be stressful. You’ll need moral and practical support when times get tough. Good work colleagues will step up for you when you ask, and you’ll do the same for them.
A positive workplace starts with good leadership. You should feel supported and empowered to cultivate healthy relationships. In most cases, though, it’s up to you to integrate yourself into the team. Otherwise, you may want to quit your job to protect your well-being.
What makes a good working relationship?
Working relationships have many characteristics. Here’s how to know whether you’re in a good one:
These relationship characteristics sometimes take effort to achieve. Let’s take a look at how to develop work relationships.
9 tips for building good work relationships
Ready to start building good work relationships? Start with these nine tips to build trust and encourage employee engagement:
1. Know what you need from your colleagues
What does your ideal team look like? Do you like having regular post-work happy hours? Do you enjoy working together on tight deadlines? Maybe you want a more casual pace, with more time for conversation.
Or maybe your coworkers have certain skills that can help you. In return, consider what you can give back. This requires understanding your strengths and weaknesses. You should know what you bring to the table and where you need support from others.
2. Practice active listening
Trust and great communication skills are the foundations of any healthy relationship. One of the best ways to achieve both of these is through active listening. Be receptive to people’s words, practice emotional intelligence, and use non-verbal communication to show you’re paying attention.
You might be wondering why effective communication is so important in building relationships. If you can’t tell someone how you feel, you can’t form a genuine connection. Listening to what your teammates are saying and responding appropriately creates a solid foundation.
From there, you can build the best work relationships possible.
3. Make time for your coworkers
It’s easy to get stuck in the daily grind and neglect your relationships. To mitigate this, schedule time for a cup of coffee. And if you’re working from home, try a virtual coffee break. This will create the time you need for building good work relationships.
4. Follow through on your commitments
Before you demand things from others, make sure you’re upholding your commitments. People need to trust that you can meet deadlines. Proving yourself as a reliable teammate will make building good work relationships easier.
5. Know when to ask for help
When it’s time, you need to know how to ask for help. Doing everything alone will only hurt your credibility as a team player. It can also produce poor results. Asking for help or delegating tasks will make sure you meet your obligations and open the door to working one-on-one with someone. That collaboration can help you build a stronger relationship.
You may find yourself in a situation where you feel uncomfortable asking a coworker for help. In such cases, turn to your human resources department for a friendly face. They can often recommend resources or facilitate productive conversations.
6. Set clear boundaries
Healthy relationship boundaries are an important part of building work friendships. It’s important to strike a balance between “a healthy work relationship” and “too much socializing.” At the end of the day, you’re still at work.
Communicate clearly when you need time to focus rather than socialize. You can also use a time-blocking strategy to prioritize your tasks throughout the day.
7. Show gratitude
A little goes a long way in showing appreciation to your teammates. Compliment them on their work, bring snacks for the break room, or send them thank-you notes. This kind of praise won’t go unnoticed.
You may have days where you don’t feel grateful. However, being resilient and keeping a positive outlook is a big part of building good work relationships.
8. Skip the gossip
Gossip and office politics erode trust in the workplace. Avoid talking behind people’s backs. Confront them directly if you have a problem. This will keep an open line of communication and foster a better work environment.
9. Start small
Some of your coworkers are simply that — coworkers. They might prefer to come in, do their work, and go home at the end of the day. Don’t take it personally. But if you succeed in finding a peer, know that being friendly is the first step to being friends.
What types of relationships are important in the workplace?
Many types of work relationships contribute to a successful and productive workplace. And you might have a preference regarding the sorts of relationships you’re comfortable developing. Some people keep to themselves, while others are social butterflies.
No matter your comfort level, here are the most important workplace relationships worth cultivating:
Manager: The most important relationship you’ll likely have at work is with your manager. This is where you build trust and gain support. If the process isn’t already implemented, suggest weekly one-on-one meetings to develop a better relationship and create consistent communication.
Feel free to do the same with coworkers you work closely with. This sets a good foundation for cultivating strong relationships all around.
Teammates: Your relationship with your teammates affects how much you enjoy your job. You’ll feel happier about going to work if you look forward to joking around with a goofy coworker or discussing exciting vacation plans with a worldly supervisor.
Clients and vendors: Your relationships with vendors and customers are crucial — without their support, the business wouldn’t exist. Even if you find a particular client challenging, remain professional and friendly to avoid negative vibes and cut ties.
Speak with your manager if you’re worried an external relationship is at risk to see if it can be salvaged.
Yourself: You can only develop positive relationships with others if you have one with yourself. But self-criticism and imposter syndrome makes this difficult.
To combat challenges to your confidence, reflect on professional accomplishments and ask managers for the positive feedback. Set boundaries and prioritize self-care, so you have the energy necessary to foster good work relationships.
When work relationships don’t work
There are many instances when you must work with a difficult colleague. You’ll need people skills to mend the relationship or make it tolerable. Here’s what you can do:
1. Review your history together
If everything was fine until recently, reflect on what might have soured the relationship. Did they misunderstand something you said? Did they dislike something you did? Clear the air face-to-face.
2. Find shared goals
They might think your ambition conflicts with theirs, causing a power imbalance. But if you find a shared goal, you can ease the friction here. Find the time to communicate openly about this with the colleague that you’re struggling with.
3. Look inward
You might feel negative emotions toward someone for no good reason. Think about why they’re bothering you, and be honest about whether it’s something they did. Maybe something unconscious is causing you to dislike this person.
Building good work relationships can take hard work. It requires time, patience, and self-awareness. But putting in the emotional labor and producing good work relationships will help you feel more connected to colleagues and increase overall job satisfaction.
Often, learning how to build rapport is the first step to building solid relationships. This provides the foundation needed to connect and empathize with others — and they’ll do the same for you.