Why and how to build positive and genuine relationships with your coworkers
Here are a few simple tips on how you can build healthy relationships with your coworkers.
Being social and well-liked has its advantages, especially when you start working. Not getting along even with a single colleague in your team can affect productivity and there isn’t a boss in the world who would be okay with that. But while you get to choose who you want to be friends with, it doesn’t really apply to your work life. So what do you do if you dislike someone?
Of course, many of us just plaster a smile on our faces and pretend to be chipper and sociable with everyone, no matter how we’re feeling at the time.
Is this “fake it till you make it” approach wise, though? A study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, found that surface acting (or faking your emotions) can have a negative impact - not only on your relationship with coworkers in the long run but also on your physical and mental health as it can cause a lot of strain. So what’s the other option?
The study showed better results, in terms of job growth as well as relationship building with colleagues, for people who participated in deeper acting - which, despite its name, is when you try to genuinely experience the feelings you’re externally portraying. It’s about making an effort to change how you feel for prosocial reasons, hoping it will improve your relationships at work. The research suggests cultivating positive feelings towards your coworkers, instead of hiding your real emotions. But that’s easier said than done, right? So here are a few simple tips on how you can build healthy relationships with your coworkers.
1. Introduce yourself
It doesn’t sound like much, but it opens the door to building a friendship faster than anything else. It’s possible that during the first few days in a new office you might not want to be that social or forthcoming. But as soon as you feel a little comfortable, just walk up to people when they seem relatively free and introduce yourself. Ask them about their role in the company, whether there are any good places to eat around or anything else that could work well as an icebreaker. Sure they might be surprised but they’ll get over it pretty soon. Just think of it as a task on your work to-do list if you’re feeling too shy.
The best way to get to know people and build trust with your coworkers is to collaborate with them on projects. Everyone says they’re a team player during the interview but now is the time to show them. Offer to partner with team members to get something done sooner or for an urgent/important project.
3. Ask personalized questions
Don’t just zone out and nod when you’re conversing around the coffee machine. There are important details you might miss that could cost you an opportunity to have a follow-up conversation. If someone talks about completing a presentation for a meeting, follow up the next day and ask them if the meeting went smoothly. On the personal front, people have a habit of sharing stuff about their kids, pets and friends and during a later conversation, when you remember something small, like the name of their Shih-Tzu, it could really make their day.
4. Offer to help
Most of us have a crazy workload and don’t want to do anything that adds to it. But when you can see someone struggling, offer a hand - just imagine how great it would feel if someone offered you help when you were having a really bad day. Even if there is no way to help or they don’t take you up on it, the thought will count.
But, fair warning, don’t overextend yourself doing this. There are many people out there who won’t care about taking your help every time you offer it and not returning the favour when you need it. Don’t bend over backwards trying to please these people.
5. Avoid politics and gossip
Yes, yes, again we know it’s easier said than done. Some offices just can’t function without the politics, just like some people can’t help but gossip. No matter how tempting it may seem, try to stay away from people who engage in such things. This is the time to play stupid - pretend to know nothing about anyone’s personal lives so you don’t inadvertently add fodder to the fire. Also, if there is a situation in which the record needs to be set straight, take a stand and do it yourself or let the relevant people know. You might burn a bridge but at least you did what was right.
6. Be considerate and engaged
A little appreciation goes a long way. It can be a task, sure, but send out thank you messages and emails, compliment your coworker’s new jacket or hair cut, offer to share your lunch when they forget theirs - it’ll help make everyone feel like they belong. You can also take it a step further and participate in fun office activities or offer to anchor them if none take place currently - anything from a Taco Tuesday to a monthly book club or a post-work rock climbing session. Let people get to know your fun side!
Read our tips on How to reduce the effects of burnout on the heart for more information.
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