We spend most of our daily waking hours working, whether we’re meeting with colleagues or sitting in our offices. Over the course of all those hours, we’ll inevitably encounter the occasional difficult co-worker or overbearing boss. But if we allow friction to develop, we could permanently damage the very relationships we need to do our jobs.
By learning to cultivate productive work relationships, you can accomplish more while also enjoying a more professional office environment. Here are seven tips to help your form better relationships with superiors, colleagues, subordinates, and clients.
1. Respect others’ time.
One way to become extremely unpopular is to be "that" person who insists on popping into offices unannounced. Your appearance is met with dread because people know you have yet another useless question or comment. If you constantly interrupt people’s work or stretch a 30-second question into a 10-minute tirade, you may be at the top of the list of your office’s most annoying co-workers.
This respect also extends to your office. If you’re in an environment where others can hear what you say, respect your neighbors by keeping conversations at a low volume and refraining from speaking to them if you see they’re working on something.
2. Play nice in email.
Email leaves a lasting impression. An inflammatory email you send one employee about another can make its way around the office before you know it, eventually ending up in the hands of the person being written about. One bad email can permanently damage your relationship with a co-worker, in addition to threatening your own professional reputation in the workplace.
If you feel the need to vent about a co-worker, do so away from the office, preferably with a spouse or trusted friend. Even if you must let off steam to someone who works with you, make sure you never put it in writing.
3. Don’t be a snitch.
One way to make an enemy quickly is to go to his or her supervisor and complain. This includes copying that supervisor on an email complaining about that employee, whether directly to that worker or to someone else. Even if the employee isn’t included in the complaint, it will likely make its way back around and you’ll have alienated a colleague.
If you have an issue with a fellow employee, have a conversation directly with that person. If you’ve found that repeated attempts fall flat, you may have to find another way to get the work done. If you feel the employee’s behavior is somehow putting the company at risk, turn it over to your own supervisor to handle.
4. Have a positive attitude.
My friend John Rampton always says "People are drawn to positive people, seeking to feel motivated and inspired by their great attitudes. Supervisors also tend to trust positive people with projects more, since they show a support for the organization and its work."
Be careful not to go too far with your positivity, though. An overly sunny attitude can become annoying, especially when those around you are pressured by deadlines or dealing with issues. If you can maintain your positive attitude no matter what happens, you’ll be much more likely to be able to handle the many stresses you’ll face each day.
5. Find a common interest.
Whether you’re meeting a client for the first time or killing time between meetings with a stranger from accounting, you’ll stand a better chance of making a connection if you can find a common interest. Start by asking if they had a great weekend or mentioning a big televised event like a football game.
Once you’ve established this common bond, you’ll have something to talk about the next time you see the person. If it’s a client, you’ll not only be memorable, your meetings are more likely to have positive outcomes if you share a personal bond.
As corporate training expert Dale Carnegie pointed out, the most important communication skill is also the easiest: listen. People are actually drawn to those who take an interest in what they have to say without interrupting or drifting away. Instead of thinking about the next thing you’ll say, actually listen to what the other person is telling you and, if relevant, show that you remember it in a later conversation.
Listening skills are especially important in supervisory relationships. Employees want to know that their complaints and concerns are being heard. Leaders can significantly increase employee satisfaction by simply listening and taking interest in what employees have to say.
7. Be supportive.
Whether professionals are asking for a re-tweet or seeking investment dollars, favors are an important part of doing business. Speaker Neil Fogarty recommends offering something yourself before asking for a favor from someone. Support others on social media before asking for that guest blog post or capital investment.
When others see you as a supportive, giving entrepreneur, they’ll naturally be drawn to you. This extends to the office environment, as well, where co-workers must frequently pitch in on projects. Instead of always asking for favors, be the person to offer to help when you see a co-worker is overwhelmed.
Strong, positive work connections can make each project more productive and enjoyable. By working each day to interact with your fellow employees, you’ll find people are more willing to help you when you need it. Many of these same principles can be applied to your dealings with family members, friends, and strangers you encounter throughout the course of your day.