The average full-time worker spends over two thousand hours on the job every year with most of that time involving face-to-face interaction with co-workers. Research has shown that if your workplace relationships are strong you will likely experience greater job satisfaction and better performance. Conversely, when on the job relationships are weak you are apt to experience greater stress resulting in lower job satisfaction and poorer performance.
Below is a list of highly effective interpersonal strategies that will help you improve your workplace relationships.
Get to know everyone within the company, and impress them with your interest in them, no matter what their position. Doormen, receptionists, secretaries, vice-presidents, sales people et al… There’s no one undeserving of your respectful attention. If you think there is, you will likely struggle with your relationships no matter where you work.
One of the quickest ways to get to know everyone in an organization is to involve yourself in the gossip. The problem with such immersion is the inaccuracy of information you will typically glean from such chin-wagging, along with the reputation such behavior invites and the relational division that often occurs.
Embrace Social Events
The social side to work relationships can often be awkward as colleagues find it difficult to interact in a novel environment that doesn’t involve work. However, the bonds formed at such events can be invaluable in fostering a sound communication base. By embracing such opportunities to get to know your co-workers better, you can build a foundation on which to improve your working relationship.
Don’t Take Sides in Petty Arguments
One of the defining characteristics of the office dynamic is the often childish and petty nature of interpersonal squabbles. Taking sides in such disputes forms rifts between colleagues that can destroy any previous relationship-building you may have been working on. Adopt a neutral, balanced standpoint and try to stay out of it.
Winning someone’s trust takes time and is accrued by consistent example. When a colleague affords you an initial measure of trust; attempt to exceed his or her expectations. Go beyond the call of duty every time and watch that trust quotient ratchet up.
Don’t Try too Hard
Forming relationships in a work environment is similar to forming relationships in other settings. Those who come across as too eager can often be perceived as pushy and phony. It can also raise suspicions among colleagues that you have some hidden agenda with overly ambitious, underhanded practices that may be professionally damaging to them. Chill a little and go with the flow.
Avoid Email if You Can
Believe it or not, email has become the snail mail of yesteryear. Now, rapid, restrictive-character messaging like texting and tweeting are the new ways to communicate. The problem is that the communication pitfalls of email are even more dangerous with briefer forms of messaging.
Even in today’s high-tech offices old-fashioned personal interaction is vitally important and highly effective. 90% of our face-to-face communication is via non-verbal cues that decorate what would otherwise be monotone speech. Avoid misunderstandings by addressing your co-workers face-to-face, and thereafter giving them the benefit of the doubt.
Ascribing beliefs and behaviors to people based on pre-conceived notions is just a bad plan from the start. To some degree we have to stereotype in order to compartmentalize information; our brains have a finite capacity and stereotyping is nature’s zip file system. However, when it comes to stereotyping individual humans, the exercise of a little intellect can easily override our cognitive stereotyping bias. Wise people integrate, foolish people segregate.
Do What You Say You Will Do
Following through and actually doing what you say you are going to do is a vital cog in building colleagues’ trust in your commitment and reliability, which in turn are vital mechanisms in the construction of a positive working relationship.
Part of selling your unique, friendly personality to your co-workers is avoiding the temptation to complain. Nobody likes a whiner; not even other whiners. Take a breath when things go wrong; count to ten if necessary before you react in a way you might ultimately regret. Look for the positive in every situation. At the very least you can appreciate a problem as a learning experience.
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.
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