It doesn’t matter if you’re the boss or the intern; building and maintaining great relationships with your colleagues will help you to collaborate, learn, engage with your company, and be happy at work.
We know it’s not always easy, so we’ve put together a few tips from experts to help you develop happy and collaborative working relationships with your colleagues.
Don't Shy Away From Feedback
Telling your colleagues they’re great feels good, and it’s important that we make the effort to thank people for helping us out at work. Giving constructive feedback, on the other hand, doesn’t always feel conducive to building great relationships.
Behavioural Statistician Joseph Folkman believes that ongoing constructive feedback is the best gift you can receive, “The advantage of receiving ongoing feedback is much like the advantage you gain from a GPS device as opposed to a paper map. Both provide directions about where you want to go. The GPS, however, provides the directions in the context of an accurate assessment of where you currently are.”
Remember that offering constructive feedback is a means of helping your colleagues, and instead of focusing on what went wrong, focus on what can be done about it.
Don’t forget to provide positive feedback too! Remember to say thank you, or well done, at every possible opportunity, no matter how small it may seem. We love giving positive feedback at Contactzilla, and we encourage our team to say thank you on a weekly basis.
Give Shadowing a Go
It’s hard to build a good working relationship with your colleagues when you don’t understand what is it they do on a day-to-day basis, or how their role affects the company’s bottom line. Zappos recommends shadowing your colleagues to get a better understanding of what it is they do: “A great way to build relationships across your company is to allow employees to 'shadow' an employee for a few hours to gain an understanding of what they do on a day-to-day basis. Not only does this allow employees to learn the ins and outs of the company, but build working relationships with people in other departments.”
Shadowing isn’t going to be appropriate for all roles. If it’s just not possible for you, why not ask to sit down with a colleague to chat about their role over a coffee for half an hour. At Contactzilla, we have daily stand-ups with the whole team, and we all sit down weekly to discuss what we’re doing. Always knowing what the others are up to helps us to appreciate each other and gives us the chance to communicate with those we’re not directly working with.
Get a Games Area
Ping-pong, pool, and foosball tables might seem like unnecessary luxuries used by start-ups to look cool, but they’re actually super-useful in nurturing team relationships.
Bob Fox, publisher of Work Design Magazine, noticed that in his office, spontaneous business conversions would occur over the foosball table. People were away from their desks and taking breaks but still getting things done. At Contactzilla HQ, we’ll often hear team members chatting about problems they’re working on over a game of pool.
Our pool table gives us something fun to do on our breaks, gives our eyes a rest from our screens, and gives us a place to chat and get to know our colleagues.
Of course, you need to act professionally at work, but putting on a front will result in lower-quality relationships, says Gregory Malouf, author of the Thoughtless series of books:
“We all have an intrinsic desire for authentic connections. In an effort to create those connections, sometimes we make ourselves into something we’re not in order to gain acceptance. In the workplace, people may stifle their ideas or go along with something they know is detrimental for fear of standing out, sounding foolish or making a mistake. Conditional relationships based on who we think others want us to be rather than on who we really are counteract authentic connections.”
You might have a watch yourself a little more than you would at home, but try to relax and be yourself as much as possible at work. You’ll be more comfortable, and you’ll build better relationships.
Know When to Keep Quiet
While you want to be genuine and feel comfortable, blurting out the first thing that comes into your head isn’t always conducive to building great relationships.
Geoffrey Tumlin, author of Stop Talking, Start Communicating, recommends putting more focus into what you don’t say than what you do: “The words you choke back, the fights you never start, and the pointless criticisms that never see the light of day will be the heroes of your personal and professional relationships.”
Remember to think before you speak and don’t say anything that could be misconstrued.
While your colleagues could be some of your favorite people, remember that your relationships with your coworkers aren't the same as your friendships outside of work. However, while you should always try to remain professional, helpful, and pleasant to work with, do try to be yourself when possible if you want to establish genuine connections for an organizational culture of camaraderie.