Building Quality Relationships with Coworkers

By Jeff Dwarshuis LMSW ACSW

The workplace is a central part of adult life and employees invested in their work spend a tremendous amount of time with coworkers. The level of quality relationships in the workplace is extremely important as it impacts employee mood, satisfaction and productivity. Improving quality relationships in the workplace takes effort but can be done. Read further to learn about five key ideas for improvement.

The “Flexibility Rule”

People tend to follow routines. While this can be good for predictability, it is not always good for developing relationships. Sitting at the same lunch or meeting location are part of an employee’s typical work day but exposes them to a limited number of coworkers. Changing routines allows employees to use a different set of relational skills and to meet new people. This is called the “Flexibility Rule”. For example, during all meeting and social times, employees should shift their sitting place. Additionally, meetings, big or small, should be held in a variety of places. Further change can be initiated by shifting who runs the meeting. These changes will cause employees to get to know other workers. Also, the shift in setting creates an unconscious increase in openness to new ideas and suggestion.

Boundary Management

Relational boundaries create safety in relationships and allow coworkers to develop better relationships. Over involvement or relational enmeshment should be avoided. For example, employees should not push or manipulate other employees into giving too much information about their personal lives. Also, employees should not overwhelm other employees by constantly talking about themselves or projecting their moods onto others. Support in the work place can be helpful but discussing personal topics has a place and requires first establishing a trusting relationship. Disengagement, the opposite of over involvement, should also be avoided. Examples of this include isolation, pushing people away through body language, rudeness and name calling. Instead of disengagement, employees should be involved in workplace meetings and social gatherings and be kind.

Clarity in Work Context

Have you ever walked into a meeting that was half over and tried to figure out the reason for the meeting? This is an example of context confusion. Part of the development of healthy workplace relationships is keeping clear contexts. Achieve this by always having clarity regarding the purpose and themes of all social exchanges. Make sure all meetings have a clear communicated purpose or conflict may emerge due to time management disagreements. Make sure that there are no hidden agendas that exclude participants. This will lead to distrust and fear. Additionally, make sure that there is no substance abuse during working hours or excessive use after work hours. Substance abuse has a profound negative impact on communication and one’s ability to appropriately understand context purpose and implementation.

Celebrate though Traditions

Part of a mature community is the holding of traditions. Traditions create a group identity and a sense of unity and belonging. Individuals feel useful and valuable when they participate in or add to the traditions. Do this in the workplace through daily, weekly, monthly, annual and varied traditions. Examples are holidays, birthdays and daily and weekly employee recognitions. Also, celebrate group accomplishments by recognizing their annual occurrence. For example, keep a list of big accomplishments of the company and recognize them each year through celebration.

Create a ‘Best Potential” Environment

People have an innate desire to succeed and do their best. Coworkers can add to this desire to create a “best potential” environment. First, coworkers should be ready to give praise for others’ accomplishments. Additionally, employees should respect others’ viewpoints. Part of a growing environment includes a place where people can speak openly. Also, experienced workers and leaders can use knowledge to create a learning environment. New employees can seek out a mentor while leaders and experienced workers can become a mentor. All workers should remain openly ambitious. Ambition, respect and praise lead to coworkers’ self development and are contagious! 

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