Building healthy and effective work relationships is important for a variety of reasons including success in your career and creating a more pleasant work experience for you, your colleagues and anyone you service in the community.
Humans crave connection, even the introverted. And given we typically spend up to 60 hours a week working, it makes sense to have positive interactions in our work environment.
Why do we need good relationships?
- Less time and energy on overcoming issues associated with poor relationships.
- Less time avoiding people, you need to speak to about completing a work task or project, and actually completing!
- No more waking up at 2am, and not getting back to sleep due to worry about an interaction you have had or need to have with a colleague
On the positive side
- Being open to new ideas and thinking that may help you solve a problem
- Getting more done with less angst which can positively influence those you service
- Better overall wellbeing as you don’t need that extra glass of wine to forget the day and as a result have better sleep too!
What characteristics define a good work relationship?
There is significant evidence that trust with colleagues and in teams leads to greater individual and team performance. But what if the trust is broken, I hear you ask? You can rebuild trust. How you rebuild or grow trust is actually very simple, while the practice of it requires you to demonstrate courage and vulnerability. Think of a time when a close friend of family member let you down, and what happened when they apologised and were accountable. Did you feel a stronger connection with them, and did that strengthen trust between you? The same applies in the workplace. However saying sorry, can take courage as we can feel vulnerable. What if the person, takes advantage of the apology? What if they don’t say sorry back? If I apologise am I admitting fault and will that impact my job progression or security?
I don’t know the answer to all of these, as it may depend on what you are apologising for and to who. What I do know is that when I have witnessed leaders put their hand up and say “I am sorry, I got it wrong” it frees up their team to do the same. I have also seen this is reverse, many times where a team member apologised to their superior leading to greater trust between them.
Be mindful of your own ‘stuff’
Get in touch with your own reactions to your colleagues. Notice how your mind can take you far away from the situation to a place of doom and gloom. Instead of being defensive, be curious about where the other person might be coming from. Perhaps you misunderstood their intent. I see this happen a lot! Humans tend to retreat to avoidance, procrastination or defensiveness the moment they feel they are being criticised, when often it is just someone expressing a view, that may or may not apply to you. Practicing mindfulness has proven to help workers in the community sector, in particular when working with difficult or complex situations to have better overall wellbeing.
Make the time in bite size chunks
Yes, we are all very busy, and could do with a lot less meetings (in person and over video). However, without making the time to connect with others, it is very difficult to resolve issues and build relationships, and can lead to spend way more time to fix broken fences. You may colleagues you will never meet in person, due to their location from you. This is no excuse not to make time for them. During the pandemic lockdowns, I witnessed colleagues having a 15-minute zoom cuppa, or Fun Fridays where everyone had to meet for 15-30 minutes about their week wearing their pyjamas or an Hawaiian shirt with a cocktail in hand. For those of you that can meet in person, I love the daily huddle meeting, where everyone huddles together for 10-15 minutes (all standing as this suggests a short meeting) and you quickly go around the room, about what you are working on that day and if you need help with anything. More detailed discussions get taken outside the meeting. A great way to connect with all your team, that doesn’t take a huge amount of time. You can also do the daily huddle on video calls too!
Building a healthier relationship with your colleagues is good for wellbeing and can increase your productivity and performance. A workplace filled with healthy work relationships creates a positive and effective work culture overall.
Margie Ireland is the author of The Happy Healthy Leader – how to achieve your potential even during a crisis. Margie is a registered Psychologist, Leadership Coach and Workshop Facilitator, highly sought after to help Leaders and their teams navigate stress and change with healthier coping strategies, leading to happier, healthier and high-performing teams.