Relationships are crucial for work – not only our relationships with clients but also the working relationships within our teams.
Delivering outstanding work depends on good collaboration. Good collaboration is built on excellent relationships. These workplace relationships are personal – to work together, we all need to get on. But, like all relationships, they need nurturing.
Taking the Time to Get Personal
The average person will spend 19.6% of their total waking hours at work. That’s a big chunk of time. Therefore, you should spend it feeling engaged, motivated and rewarded in what you do. And workplace relationships contribute significantly to job satisfaction.
Basically, people who get on together work better together and feel better for it. But you can’t take this for granted. It requires a degree of time and proactive effort.
So, if you want people to build personal connections at work, what should you do to encourage them?
As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. There are plenty of horror stories about death by PowerPoint, enforced fun and awful corporate awaydays. Just hearing the words “team building” may be enough to send a shiver of fear down the spine of employees.
Here are our dos and don’ts for fostering strong personal relationships at work.
DO Respect Other People’s Personal Space
What one person thinks is appropriate workplace conversation and levels of intimacy might not be another’s.
This also applies to organising any kind of team-building event – not everyone wants to get physically close to others at work. That puts an office Twister tournament out of the running.
There are different levels of intimacy and they’re not universal. The best approach is always to ask people first before committing them to activities they could find uncomfortable.
DO Show Curiosity About Your Colleagues
Work encourages us to assume certain identities, but it’s when you look beyond these identities you start to build stronger relationships.
Get to know people for who they are. Be curious. When someone tells you about what they’ve been doing outside work, show you’re interested.
Likewise, share your own personal stuff and let people know a bit more about who you are.
DO Active Listening
We’ve talked about active listening before, for building trust between agencies and clients, and it applies here too.
You can only develop good personal relationships if you’re prepared to listen to others. This means giving them the space to express themselves, showing that you’re paying attention and responding to them appropriately.
DO Focus on Others First
Building trust with others requires generosity of spirit. Focus on them before yourself.
If you can demonstrate genuine attentiveness towards them, this encourages openness and sends out clear signals that you’re not acting out of self-interest.
DO Keep Your Team Building Natural
The most effective team-building efforts arise from the natural chemistry between people in the workplace.
By making them activities rather than events and integrating them into your regular processes and practices, they become like second nature.
For example, brainstorming is an excellent opportunity for team building and strengthening workplace bonds.
Meals out provide other opportunities to grow personal relationships, providing you keep things informal.
Remember: networking isn’t just about meeting new people and making external contacts. It’s an essential element in helping people in your workplace make meaningful connections with each other.
DON’T Present or Lecture
Building relationships is not a command-and-control exercise.
Someone standing at the front of an audience talking about the value of team building is neither demonstrating it nor encouraging others to engage.
Relationship building is inherently democratic – it needs to come from individuals and not be directed at them.
DON’T Try to Enforce Fun
You might remember the Comic Relief Day episode of The Office, the one where David Brent busts his eye-boggling dance moves.
That’s what enforced fun in the workplace looks like.
It’s worth noting that you may have introverts in your team. Their natural state isn’t one of unbridled fun and games and letting their hair down.
Relationships are built on respect, which means understanding what people may or may not like.
DON’T Include Role Play
You may have some amateur dramatics enthusiasts on your team, but you also may not.
Role-play scenarios inevitably make people feel self-conscious, less at ease and therefore less likely to bond with others.
Culture is Crucial for Collaboration
The more individuals understand, respect and communicate easily with each other, the better you can build a positive, productive workplace culture.
We’re a marketing agency in Chester and we’ve based the success of our business on the people we work with. These relationships are the engine that drives our creativity.