8 Ways To Build Strong Relationships in the Workplace

Updated March 10, 2023

An illustration of groups of two meeting, chatting or shaking hands.

Positive relationships in the workplace are an integral part of career success. When building relationships in the workplace, you will notice an increase in productivity and overall job satisfaction. You can build lasting, professional relationships by taking certain steps toward understanding your emotional intelligence and getting to know your coworkers.

In this article, we discuss the benefits of building workplace relationships, as well as specific steps that you can take when developing your own.

What are relationships in the workplace?

Relationships in the workplace are the interactions you have with your colleagues. When you have effective relationships with other professionals and team members, you are more likely to enjoy your day-to-day. Building relationships in the workplace is also important for career success. Not only do relationships with colleagues in the workplace assist with networking, but they can also offer you the guidance and encouragement you need to succeed in your role. Workplace relationships provide the following benefits:

  • Increased satisfaction with your career

  • Increased comfort with presentations and team meetings

  • Improved productivity for all team members

  • Moral support and assistance with meeting challenging timelines

  • Higher retention rates

Elements of good workplace relationships

Understanding the elements of a good workplace relationship can assist you in evaluating your relationships and identifying the areas in which you want to improve. Good workplace relationships tend to have the following characteristics:

  • Trust: The ability to trust your coworkers and feel that you can rely on them is important when building a workplace relationship.

  • Acceptance: Acceptance and understanding of one another and your role in the workplace relationship is an important element.

  • Team member: Individuals who work well in a team setting, doing their fair share of the work and giving credit when it is due, tend to have stronger relationships.

  • Open communication: Open communication is crucial to any relationship, including a workplace one. One of the first steps toward a working relationship is encouraging open communication, asking questions and getting to know your coworkers.

How to build relationships in the workplace

Building positive relationships in the workplace may come naturally to some. However, even if you are unsure how to transition coworker relationships into positive workplace relationships, you can use the following steps:

1. Understand your strengths and weaknesses

Before focusing on developing new workplace relationships, it can be helpful to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Developing relationship skills like communication, active listening and conflict resolution can assist you when initiating workplace relationships. Evaluate the positive things that you bring to a new workplace relationship and consider the things you need in a relationship. Evaluating your emotional intelligence (EI) can assist with this task. Understanding your emotional intelligence involves a focus on:

  • Self-awareness: Self-awareness is the ability to know your needs and wants in your career and relationship. 

  • Self-regulation: Self-regulation is the ability to regulate your own emotions and thoughts by keeping your long-term goals in mind.

  • Empathy: Empathy is understanding and empathizing with another's situation.

  • Social skills: Developing important social skills like teamwork, conflict resolution, communication and problem-solving skills are crucial when developing new relationships.

 Related: 5 Ways To Develop Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

2. Schedule time to develop relationships

Building positive relationships in the workplace takes time. Your position's daily expectations and duties can make it difficult to find time to interact with other team members. You will find interacting with and getting to know your coworkers easier by scheduling time to develop relationships. You might schedule a time during lunch, during the first 10 minutes of your workday or as you leave the office at the end of the day. You could even schedule the first 10 minutes of a meeting to be a time when everyone catches up with one another. Additionally, many employers have after-work outings or team events which can be great for building workplace relationships.

3. Ask questions and listen

Asking questions and actively listening will allow you to learn more about your coworkers and are also an important part of building relationships. When you ask questions about your coworker's personal life, professional goals or daily needs, you are interested in them. Give them the opportunity to share details about their life before sharing your own. Also, by asking questions and encouraging open communication, your coworkers will come to associate you with being a good communicator. They are more likely to come to you with concerns, celebrations or when they need someone to listen.

Related: The Best Methods for Teaching Excellent Communication Skills

4. Offer assistance

Taking the burden off of a coworker when they are struggling to complete a project is a great way to build a relationship. If you notice a coworker feeling overwhelmed and you have a few extra minutes, consider assisting them. Trust is an important part of building relationships, and you are demonstrating this quality by helping coworkers when they need it most.

Related: 9 Ways To Help and Support Colleagues at Work

5. Know when to ask for assistance

Asking for assistance can also initiate a workplace relationship. By asking coworkers to join in on projects or work tasks, you have more opportunities to get to know them. Also, remember that you are more likely to receive the assistance you need when you previously offered the same help to others. Relationships involve both give and take; you can demonstrate this by asking for and offering assistance.

Related: How To Ask for Help at Work

6. Appreciate each employee's role

Appreciation is a powerful relationship builder. Sometimes, it might seem difficult to understand the challenges of another department and frustrations can lead to negative feelings. By keeping in mind that each department has different goals, you can appreciate each employee's role in the organization. Rather than jumping to conclusions or placing the blame, it can be useful to come up with solutions to a problem. By working together productively and professionally, you will develop a new appreciation for your coworkers, allowing you to begin developing a positive relationship.

Related: How To Show Appreciation at Work: Benefits, Examples and Tips

7. Keep your commitments

Further building on trust is the act of keeping your commitments. You are more likely to develop stronger relationships when your coworkers or team members know that they know that they can rely on you. If you find it difficult to keep commitments due to a busy work schedule, tell coworkers that you will need to get back to them when they request your attendance. Always be realistic when agreeing to work responsibilities or upcoming events.

Related: 11 Steps To Improve Commitment in the Workplace

8. Be present in the workplace

With the many responsibilities and requirements of the workday, it can often feel like the day flies by. It might feel more productive to multitask throughout the day, answering emails during a team meeting or working on your report during lunch. However, these tasks prevent you from being present. By paying attention to those around you, beginning communication and getting to know your coworkers, you will find that you can build workplace relationships with minimal effort.

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