Office life is a little strange when you come to think about it. You’re thrown into a big open space with a screen to stare at, a few printers here and there, desks, chairs, coffee machine, and a load of people you don’t really know. What’s more, you’ll inhabit this space for more than a third of your day. You’ll eat there, chat, procrastinate, perhaps do a little work, and sometimes even sleep!
So, considering the sheer amount of time we spend in the office, it’s probably a good idea to think about your working relationships and how they affect your daily life. They might be cold and perfunctory or perhaps a little too over-friendly, but either way, developing better working relationships that strike the right balance between professionalism and personability have been shown to deliver numerous benefits for productivity, motivation, and general wellbeing. So, whatever the current state of your workplace relationships, check out this handy step-by-step guide on how to connect with your colleagues.
1 – Listen and Learn
Whether it’s a new colleague or an old hand, it’s never too late to start listening. The foundation of any working relationship is built on mutual respect, and no one enjoys being cut off mid-sentence to listen to your latest views on the likely winner of The Great British Bake Off. When you listen, you learn, and colleagues always appreciate when ideas, thoughts, and feelings make an impact. Additionally, you’ll likely discover new things about your colleagues that can help you find common ground in the future.
2 – Find Something to Share
Ok. Sometimes it’s good to spew those controversial opinions on GBBO. After all, plenty of people love to share their own recipes for lemon thyme and syrup Schicttorte. Sharing brings people together, and whether it’s TV, cinema, music, sports, or food, exchanging views and…erm….cupcakes is a great way to build relationships at work. It doesn’t matter how big or small, identify something that you can share with your colleagues and watch your relationship blossom.
3 – Be Mindful
Effective workplace relationships require a degree of mindfulness, particularly when you are first getting to know someone, or you are trying to strengthen a relationship with a colleague you’ve never really interacted with. Ok, your irreverent personality and risqué jokes might be a hit at home, but they could be a little overwhelming (and inappropriate) for your colleagues. Be mindful of your words and actions, tone down the sarcasm and try to spread a little positivity.
4 – Identify Working Types
When it comes to working together as part of a team, it’s important to identify the professional personalities of your colleagues. Some people are creative and chaotic, others are fastidious and formal, others might like to push deadlines to the last minute or have everything completed a week before the due date. In truth, working relationships depend on all types, and teams work better with a balance of skills and temperaments. Identify each “type” by paying attention to individual working processes–you’ve got ambitious types who love to take on everything in their path, introverted types who like to work alone, anxious workers who tend to question everything they do and many more besides. Learn to recognize how your colleagues work and distribute work according to their specific skill set.
5 – Keep the Chat Going
Developing better working relationships requires much more than a simple “good morning” and “good night” as you come in and out of the office. So, whether across your workstations, in the kitchen, or through your favorite Conversational Email app, try to keep the chat moving forward. Collaborate and discuss your next project but don’t be afraid to go off topic. Use emojis, GIFs, and memes to brighten up the conversation and add a personal touch. Sometimes, a picture (or animated cat emoji) speaks a thousand words! Off-topic chat might seem counterproductive to begin with, but in the end, it will strengthen your relationships and lead to bigger and brighter things as you work together more effectively and efficiently.
6 – Socialize Together
When developing working relationships with colleagues, socializing is an excellent way to strengthen the bond. However, there can be too much of a good thing, so ensure you socialize within reason. Team building activities that encourage creativity are a good place to start. Cooking classes, concerts and theatre experiences, and for the big kids out there, paintballing and laser tag can all help to improve relationships and employee wellbeing.
However, unless you are really close friends already, that month-long vacation traveling South East Asia might just put a little too much strain on the relationship. We’ve all seen The Beach. Having said that, sometimes adversity can help build stronger bonds, but in all honesty, a few post-work drinks is probably all the adversity you’ll need after a long day in the office.
Naturally, building relationships at work will take time. The key is to move slowly and remain open to other opinions and personalities, while impressing your own on your fellow colleagues. However, with our simple steps, you’ll find that effective working relationships can be built easily, boosting productivity and making the office a much more pleasant place to spend your time.