If we spend most of our time at work, it makes sense to invest in building strong relationships with our colleagues, managers, and customers. Cultivating these relationships can significantly impact our job satisfaction and overall enjoyment of work. Positive relationships within your team lead to increased employee engagement, as well as a sense of empowerment to share ideas and the knowledge that you have support from your colleagues. Trust and mutual respect are fostered through open and honest communication. Regardless of your industry, building relationships with your coworkers directly influences your professional success and well-being. Therefore, knowing how to build and maintain workplace relationships is a crucial and valuable skill.

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Positive work relationships have a significant impact on mental health and well-being. According to psychology, a sense of belonging, acceptance, and happiness at work are essential for our overall health. Our lives are structured around belonging to something, highlighting the importance of this sense for both physical and mental well-being. Social ties that come with a sense of belonging and acceptance act as a protective mechanism against stress and other behavioral issues. Despite this, 40% of people report feeling isolated at work, indicating a gap in meeting this fundamental human need. The need to belong is closely linked to bonding, identity, and social connection. Feeling supported and not alone makes us more resilient and better able to cope with life’s challenges.

“… the integration of individuals into support networks provides them resources needed to successfully cope with depression, anxiety, loneliness, obesity, alcohol abuse, smoking and many other physical and mental health difficulties. To add more, having a positive network of people has another significant impact on well-being. A person’s chance of being happy increases by 15% if he is related to a happy person, and by 10% if he is related to a person, who is related to a happy person. Therefore, studies around social networks argue that happiness is transmitted through positive relationships.Fowler & Christakis, 2008.

The shift to remote work has presented significant challenges, particularly in building relationships with colleagues. Without face-to-face interaction, it’s harder to establish rapport, as a significant portion of communication is non-verbal, relying on body language, facial expressions, and gestures. Despite the proliferation of online communication tools, the importance of maintaining relationships remains paramount, as it’s easy to lose touch with colleagues as individuals.

To maintain positive connections while working remotely, both individuals and managers can take proactive steps. These include scheduling regular “whole team” video conferences to foster a sense of unity, incorporating social chats into meetings to maintain a personal connection, and asking colleagues how you can support them. These actions can help bridge the gap created by remote work and foster a sense of camaraderie among team members.

Reflection:

  • What does having positive relationships at work mean to you?
  • Why does it matter to you?
  • If you have experienced poor work relationships how has that impacted, you?
  • What strategies have you implemented to foster positive relationships?

How to Foster Positive Workplace Relationships

Building positive relationships is more than just a task—it’s a personal journey that begins with self-awareness and self-management. It’s about taking ownership of your interactions and committing to constant growth and improvement. This process is ongoing and requires dedication to learning, adapting, and navigating new challenges. Let’s explore some three key pillars that can help you master the art of building positive relationships in the workplace.

1. Understanding your behavioral styles.

How does your personality or behavioral style and communication style affect your relationships with colleagues at work?  Your personality and communication style play a crucial role in shaping your relationships with colleagues. How adept are your people skills? How do you process information, and how do your worldviews impact others? What is your approach to work, problem solving and decision making?  Do you consider and respect other people’s approaches?

You might have encountered personality assessments like Birkman or MBTI, which provide insights into your behavior and its effects on others. Whether you’re passive, passive-aggressive, aggressive, or assertive, these traits significantly influence the quality of your relationships. For instance, an aggressive approach may be seen as overly direct or controlling, hindering healthy relationships. Conversely, a passive demeanor might lead others to perceive you as lacking confidence or being easily taken advantage of. Understanding and adapting these behaviors can greatly enhance your relationships in the workplace.

Extroverted individuals often thrive in social settings, enjoying interactions and finding it easier to build relationships. In contrast, introverted individuals may prefer deeper, one-on-one interactions and require more solitude to recharge, affecting the nature and number of their relationships.

Individuals with high levels of agreeableness tend to be cooperative, compassionate, and trusting, prioritizing harmony in their relationships. This attitude often leads to a willingness to compromise, fostering positive work relationships. Conversely, individuals with lower agreeableness may display more competitive or skeptical behaviors, which can influence their interactions with others.

Understanding your own and others’ personality, work, and communication styles can enhance your ability to navigate work relationships effectively by recognizing your tendencies and adjusting to others’ styles. Adaptability to different styles is key to fostering successful work relationships. You will also know when and how to play to your behavioral strengths and at the same identify areas of opportunities for growth. These skills and traits contribute to interpersonal effectiveness, communication, overall well-being, and team performance.

2. Understanding emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is universally acknowledged as a pivotal element in establishing positive work relationships. But what exactly does EQ entail? It encompasses the capacity to identify, comprehend, control, and adeptly utilize one’s emotions, alongside recognizing, understanding, and influencing the emotions of others. EQ is a collection of skills and characteristics that enhance interpersonal effectiveness, communication, overall well-being, and team performance.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) begins with self-awareness, the skill of recognizing and understanding your own emotions. This awareness enables you to grasp how your emotions influence your behavior and interactions with others, empowering you to manage them effectively in professional settings. For instance, when you feel frustrated, how does it impact your communication with teammates? Do you display irritability or impatience, and how does this affect your relationships?

The next crucial aspect of EQ is self-regulation, the ability to control and manage your emotions, impulses, and reactions. By regulating your emotions, you can respond to situations in a composed and rational manner, which is vital for fostering positive relationships with colleagues. Using the earlier example, if you feel frustrated or impatient, how do you regulate these emotions during interactions? How do you ensure that your emotions do not disrupt your relationships? Strategies such as excusing yourself from the interaction to cool off or taking deep breaths can help maintain positive relationships.

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The final two competencies of emotional intelligence, social awareness, and relationship management are crucial for navigating relationships with teammates, managers, and customers. These competencies involve developing social skills like effective communication, conflict resolution, and teamwork. Such skills are vital for establishing and sustaining positive relationships with colleagues, clients, and other stakeholders. Additionally, they require cultivating empathy to understand and empathize with others’ emotions. Empathy enables you to view situations from their perspective, fostering trust, collaboration, and mutual respect in work relationships.

In summary, emotional intelligence is foundational for building positive relationships, and further development of this skill is essential. Take time to reflect on the following questions to enhance your emotional intelligence.

Reflection:

  • How does your ability to manage your emotions impact your interactions with colleagues?
  • How does your ability to handle stress impact your interactions with coworkers?
  • How does your level of empathy affect your relationships with colleagues?
  • How does your willingness to collaborate impact your effectiveness in team settings?
  • How does your consistency in following through on commitments impact your credibility and trustworthiness with coworkers?
  • How does your approach to conflict resolution affect the outcome of conflicts with coworkers?

3. Understanding Mindsets, Attitudes and Beliefs

What mindsets, attitudes, and beliefs do you hold about your manager, older colleagues, younger generations, and other coworkers? How do these assumptions impact your relationships? Our preconceptions about people, leaders, and work dynamics can either bolster or hinder the development of positive relationships. For instance, if you believe that a particular generation is lazy or lacks a strong work ethic, it could affect how you interact with them. Inability to forgive and move forward can also impede progress. Additionally, societal norms and expectations shape our views on what constitutes successful connections. Reflect on whether you tend to categorize people based on their generation, as these generalizations can impact your interactions. Let’s look at some of the generalizations and learn to challenge and reframe them:

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  • “My manager is always penalizing me for speaking up?”
  • “That team never collaborates with us effectively.”

You can challenge and reframe such mindsets or limiting beliefs as follows:

  • “Always?”
  • “All the time, each time?” Is that true?

You can also further challenge your mindset, beliefs, or attitudes by asking:

  • What evidence is there for this belief? Is it 100% true or only partially true?
  • What would be an alternative positive or empowering belief?
  • What acceptable risks could I take to shift my self-limiting belief and thereby liberate myself?

Building and maintaining positive relationships can be achieved through several key pillars. While I’ve only covered three in this article, I’m confident that starting with these can help you establish strong connections. In the following section, I’ll provide tips on how to navigate relationships with different stakeholders.

Manager/Leader

How do you develop a positive relationship with your leader/manager?

  • Clear Communication: Keep your manager informed about your progress, challenges, and successes. This helps build trust and transparency.
  • Proactive Approach: Take initiative and show enthusiasm for your work. Managers appreciate employees who are self-motivated and willing to go the extra mile.
  • Seek Feedback: Regularly seek feedback on your performance. This demonstrates a commitment to improvement and shows that you value your manager’s insights.
  • Problem-Solving: Offer solutions rather than just presenting problems. Demonstrating problem-solving skills makes you an asset to the team.

Employee

As a leader/manager, how do you cultivate positive relationships with your employees?

  • Self-awareness: This involves having a profound understanding of your own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and values.
  • Self-regulation: Effective leaders manage their emotions well, particularly in challenging or high-pressure situations. They remain calm and composed, steering clear of impulsive or emotional reactions.
  • Empathy: A crucial trait, empathy allows leaders to understand and share the feelings of others. They are attentive to the needs and concerns of their team members, creating a supportive and inclusive work environment.

Teammates/Colleagues

How do you build positive relationships with your teammates and colleagues?

  • Communication: Open and honest communication is key. Be clear, actively listen, and encourage feedback.
  • Collaboration: Foster a collaborative environment where team members feel comfortable sharing ideas and working together towards common goals.
  • Respect: Treat your teammates with respect. Acknowledge their contributions, value their opinions and perspectives.

External Customer

How do you build positive relationships with your customers?

  • Understanding Needs: Listen to your customers to understand their needs and expectations.
  • Prompt Responsiveness: Respond to customer inquiries and concerns promptly.
  • Personalization: Use their names, remember past interactions, and tailor your approach to their specific needs.

Reflections:

  • Which personalities/stakeholders are you having the most difficulty in establishing heathy relationships?
  • How can you cover that?
  • In addition to the skills discussed above, what other skills can help you foster positive connections with different stakeholders?

Conclusion

In conclusion, building positive relationships in the workplace is a multifaceted process that involves self-awareness, emotional intelligence, adaptability, and empathy. Understanding one’s own personality and communication style, along with recognizing and respecting the styles of others, is foundational to fostering strong connections. Additionally, emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in building and maintaining positive relationships, as it enables individuals to recognize, understand, and manage their own emotions while also empathizing with others. By developing these skills and traits, individuals can navigate work relationships more effectively, leading to increased job satisfaction, better teamwork, and overall improved well-being.

For more information, contact, Dr. Mary Ritz at info@almentainternational.net or visit www.almentainternational.com.