8 Strategies for Building Relationships Effectively

Updated December 22, 2022

In nearly every industry, it's helpful to develop positive relationships with coworkers, employers and clients. Building strong, positive relationships with the people you encounter at work can have many benefits in your personal and professional life. Learning how to build these relationships effectively is an important skill for you to develop to succeed in your career.

In this article, we discuss what work relationships are, and why it's important to build them, and we provide strategies you can use to build relationships with coworkers and customers.

What are work relationships?

Work relationships are the bonds that develop between you and others in your professional life. You can develop working relationships with colleagues, including members of your department and your supervisors. You can also create strong professional relationships with customers.

Building working relationships with everyone you encounter in your work environment is important to your overall career success and job satisfaction. Work relationships can lead to better customer engagement and increased profit. You can build a work relationship with the following characteristics:

  • Trust: When you and your coworkers trust each other, you all can openly and honestly express your thoughts. This can improve relationships and reduce conflict.

  • Respect: When people working together have mutual respect, they value each other's input. This allows them to collaborate based on input, creativity and appreciation.

  • Self-awareness: When you take responsibility for your words and actions, others are more likely to support you. Self-awareness helps you bring your best self to work so you can interact positively with others.

  • Open communication: Good relationships depend upon open and honest communication. The more effectively you communicate with those around you, the better you connect.

Related: 8 Reasons Why It's Important To Build Workplace Relationships

Benefits of building relationships at work

Creating positive relationships in the workplace is incredibly beneficial. Some benefits include:

  • Building mutual respect

  • Improving communication

  • Feeling more relaxed and supported at work

  • Improving your physical and mental health

  • Focusing on work rather than on social stressors

  • Enjoying your work

  • Engaging well with people in the office

  • Increasing your ability to collaborate with others

  • Learning new skills from others

  • Building a strong network of professional connections

Related: 7 Examples of Important Teamwork Skills

How to build relationships effectively

Follow these strategies to develop positive working relationships with coworkers, supervisors and customers:

1. Invest time to build individual relationships

It might seem time-efficient to get to know coworkers as a group but make time to get to know people on a personal level. Dedicating time to friendly conversations, lunch dates or one-on-one meetings shows you value your teammates as individuals. It's also important to learn people's names.

For example, getting to know your regular customers by name and using it to greet and address them can have a major impact on creating a positive customer experience. Doing this also encourages them to remain loyal to your company. Addressing them personally can help them feel you appreciate their business.

Related: 5 Tips for Building Relationships at Work

2. Engage meaningfully

Try to make an impact with your conversations. Doing so might make you stand out in the minds of your colleagues or clients positively. Engage in meaningful conversation by asking questions such as what their plans are for the weekend or how they intend to use the products they're purchasing from you.

Related: How To Be Engaging in Workplace Conversations (Plus Tips)

3. Follow through on commitments

Your work responsibilities may impact your colleagues' work, so following through on your commitments and meeting your expected deadline is crucial. When others know you're reliable, they're more likely to think favorably about you. If you might miss a deadline, inform all relevant parties as soon as possible to minimize the impact or disruption it may have on their work.

Related: 6 Steps To Improve Accountability In Your Workplace

4. Work collaboratively

Collaborating with others lets them know you value their opinions and appreciate their contributions during team projects and meetings. It also allows you to learn from each other and acknowledge their strengths. Because many workplaces place people into teams, it's beneficial to learn how to collaborate with people effectively.

Related: How To Increase Collaboration in the Workplace

5. Address conflict directly

If a challenging situation arises in the workplace, address the conflict with the person or people involved. Explain your point of view calmly but also actively listen to the other side and try to empathize with their position. This proactive approach promotes respect and can help lead to a positive resolution of the situation.

Related: 9 Key Steps for Conflict Resolution at Work

6. Be a problem-solver

Rather than complaining or making critical remarks, take a proactive, problem-solving approach to resolve issues you see in the workplace or with a client. This can help everyone be more efficient and productive and do better quality work. For clients and customers, it shows them you're trying to exceed expectations.

Related: 14 Effective Problem-Solving Strategies

7. Be accountable for your actions

Taking responsibility for the results of your actions can help you earn the respect of your peers and supervisors. This strategy works for customers and clients, too. If you make any mistakes or your customers face a challenge, acknowledge it and take every measure you reasonably can to correct the issue. Assuming responsibility is a great way to earn respect and communicate honestly.

8. Ask for feedback

People often like to feel their opinions are important and valuable, especially from the companies with which they work . Asking your customers to provide feedback and then implementing their suggestions when possible can have a major impact on creating a strong relationship. Asking for feedback from your colleagues or employers can help you learn how you can improve in your role. It's important to receive feedback with an open mind so you can continue to develop professionally and personally.

Related: How To Ask for Feedback from Customers

Tips for building strong relationships at work

Although the approach you use to build healthy relationships at work may vary based on who you're bonding with, these general tips can help you develop strong professional relationships with anyone you encounter:

Practice effective communication

Strong communication skills are important for building positive relationships with anyone. Try to choose the words you use carefully and listen to the opinions of others. Empathy, active listening and non-verbal communication are all important things you can practice, making you a better communicator.

Related: How To Be a Better Communicator (With 21 Communication Tips)

Work on building relationships daily

Try to make it a priority to do things every day, specifically to improve your relationships at work. For example, take time to talk to your coworkers or supervisors when in the break area. When these interactions become a daily habit, you may find that relationships at work develop naturally.

Focus on becoming more emotionally intelligent

Emotional intelligence allows you to recognize the needs and emotions of others and helps you build positive relationships by meeting those needs. When someone's emotionally intelligent, they can acutely assess situations in the workplace and respond accordingly. Emotional intelligence involves self-awareness and empathy, which can help you create stronger professional relationships.

Related: The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Get to know people on a personal level

When you take the time and attempt to know someone on a personal level, it lets them know you care about them as an individual and not just about what they can do for you. Try to get to know people on a personal level by asking about their families, hobbies or interests outside of work. Doing this can also help you find common ground, which can help forge a deeper relationship.

Embrace diversity

Many work environments have a diverse group of people with different skills, strengths, opinions and ideas. No matter how different your team is, everyone has something positive to offer in a work environment. By embracing a diverse workforce, you can let the people you work with know you're open to their differences and that you appreciate the unique value they add to the company.

Show others you appreciate and respect them

People want to have relationships with other people who value the things they do and are respectful toward them. You can let people at work know you appreciate them by praising them for doing a good job, giving them credit for work they've done or sending a thank you note when they do something nice for you. You can show respect by treating everyone equally and always being courteous in your conversations and interactions.

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