Updated November 26, 2012
Unless you work from home or spend most of your working day visiting clients, the truth is that relationships with work colleagues are an essential –and sometimes conflictive- part of our working lives. Some people actually spend more time with their colleagues than with their families, so it is easy to understand how necessary it is to make sure that work relationships flow smoothly instead of being a source of conflict.
The importance of good working relationships
Over the past few decades, team work and the ability to maintain positive relationships with other members of staff have become valuable skills that virtually every employer expects. There are several reasons why good working relationships are a must in today’s fast-paced corporate world.
In the first place, positive relationships with work colleagues contribute to create an agreeable atmosphere in the workplace. Perhaps only those who have problematic relationships with their colleagues know how oppressive an office can be when you do not get along with the people around you. In fact, psychologists believe that having problems with work colleagues is one of the biggest causes of stress and that its importance is often underestimated.
Secondly, an agreeable working atmosphere can help increase productivity. A 2009 study showed that productivity levels could be enhanced by up to 10 per cent when the relationships between staff members were free of strains. It has been shown that companies where staff gets along have lower levels of absenteeism and lower turnover. Therefore, it is not surprising that employers look for team members who know how to relate to others positively.
Tips for developing, establishing, and maintaining good working relationships
The golden rule when it comes to developing good working relationships with colleagues can be summed up in one word: empathy. Acting in the same way in which you would like others to behave towards you is one of the most basic (and yet effective) things that can be done to establish positive relationships with others. It doesn’t really matter if you are a new staff member or you have been in the company for years: showing personal interest in others will always go a long way. As long as you are genuine, simple questions like “how was your weekend?”, “do you need help with anything?” or “how are you getting on today?” can prompt others to open up and help develop an atmosphere of trust.
Polishing your communication skills is also an important step when it comes to creating or maintaining good working relationships. This means being a good listener and showing respect for the opinions of other staff members, even if they happen to be younger or less experienced. Do not interrupt others, and this applies to conversations and staff meetings. If your role requires you to work closely with others in a project, it is important to make clear what everyone’s responsibilities are and to define your expectations clearly. This will help prevent misunderstandings that could develop into serious rifts.
If you sincerely believe that everyone can make a contribution to the company, that will show in your actions and others will feel more inclined to relate to you in a positive manner. Good communication skills also entail being appreciative of others’ efforts and letting them know about it. It goes without saying that gossiping, siding with the boss, and criticising other colleagues are out of the question.
Improving your working relationships in the office
There is always something that can be done to create a positive working environment, and certainly, there is no need to wait until conflict arises. Some useful suggestions to improve the quality of your interpersonal relationships at work include:
-Consider networking outside of the office. Staff dinners do not have be limited to special events like Christmas or someone’s farewell party. These informal events present a great opportunity to get to know your colleagues as people and not just as a job title
-Organise a day out that includes fun activities that everyone can enjoy. Some ideas include scenic steam train trips, attending a horse racing event, river cruises, street photography courses, or brewery tours.
Developing excellent working relationships requires time and effort, but the rewards are just too many to be ignored. By accepting that everyone in the workplace is different but valuable, showing personal interest, and doing things together, you can improve the quality of your work and your emotional wellbeing.
Good working relationships can help you to do your job better, enjoy your work more and help you along in your career. Here are eight simple steps that you can try to help you along the road to better office relationships.
Step 1: The most important thing to do in order to get along with your colleges is to fulfil your responsibilities. If other people are counting on you it is essential to make sure that projects are handed in on time and if this is not possible then ensure that you communicate this and the reason why to the other members of staff.
Step 2: Listen to what other people have to say, even if you don’t agree with their suggestions. Ask questions when you don’t understand something, no one will appreciate a know-it-all attitude and if you don’t understand something you will probably get it wrong. There’s nothing wrong with initiative but try to not to tell people what they’re doing wrong in an arrogant way. If you do have an idea that could make a colleague more efficient, tell them in a friendly manner so that they know you are not reproving them.
Step 3: Learn people’s names and be polite, it is a sign of respect and your colleagues will appreciate that you are civil and professional.
Step 4: Make an effort to lunch with your co-workers and get to know them. Try to socialise with people in a non-work environment so that you can build up good relationships with people. Don’t talk up your accomplishments too much but rather ask your colleges about theirs and show an interest in them.
Step 5: Don’t discuss topics that could make your colleagues uncomfortable—such as religion, your personal life and politics, try not to become too personal with your colleagues.
Step 6: Find a way to get along with even the most difficult people—there will always be difficult colleagues who rub you the wrong way, but it is important to have a good working relationship with all of your co-workers.
Step 7: Don’t spread malicious gossip—don’t spread rumours about people, even if you know they’re true.
Step 8: Respect your colleagues—this is the foundation for any good work relationship.
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