Prior to the global pandemic, building relationships at work was fairly easy. You were surrounded by teammates with the same goals. Being in-person allowed for quick on-the-spot collaboration and impromptu conversation, so you could build both a professional and personal network.
According to a recent McKinsey & Company report up to 25 percent of workers in advanced economies now work from home three to five days per week. Many companies that pivoted to remote work as a temporary fix are considering making those changes permanent, or shifting to a hybrid model.
While the physical workspace may have shifted, what hasn’t changed is the need to build strong relationships so you can work effectively and grow professionally. These relationships help to foster creativity, innovation, and improve employee satisfaction. Some people may need refreshers on in-person social interactions at work and tips on building relationships.
Follow these tips to build better relationships at work:
- Be authentic. Your intentions must be genuine. People will read through your fake attempts at a connection. Eddie Haskell from “Leave It to Beaver” comes to mind, but you are probably not old enough to recognize that reference. For a more current reference think Amy Santiago from “Brooklyn 99.”
- Relate on a personal level. I find it easy to start a conversation about a common TV show that each person enjoys. I once participated in a fun “Survivor” pool with a bunch of people in IT to help build relationships across departments. We were all avid fans!
- Accept others. I had a web developer who really wasn’t interested in the daily office chit chat. We focused our 1:1 meetings on the work but I made room for his coding wish list items since that was what motivated him.
- Demonstrate trustworthiness. As a manager of a department, I think it is important to advocate for the team, for our timelines and project approvals. These actions build trust along with the relationships.
- Remain positive. No one wants to work with a chronic complainer or the eternal pessimist. The idea is to build relationships at work, not repel people! Keep it positive! Save your venting sessions for your trusted inner circle.
Do you love theater or sports? Are you a foodie or movie buff? Do you have a hobby? Share them! Relating your personality, beliefs and perspectives can accelerate authentic relationships, but it is important to maintain professionalism with coworkers, supervisors, and customers. I have a coworker who loves to bake. It’s really easy to network across departments in the kitchen over a piece of gooey butter cake!
When I have worked for larger companies with a front desk receptionist, I always tried to build a relationship with them. When I ran out to lunch or to run an errand, I would ask if they needed anything. When I worked for a cable company, the receptionist had a sign-in sheet for all visitors. I would periodically sign-in celebrities just for fun. She would be entertained by the visitors who signed-in later when they noticed that Jennifer Aniston or George Clooney was listed! It was a cable company after all, you never know!
Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
It’s important to build a “give and take” into any professional relationship. You’ll notice “give” is first. If you offer to reach out to help with a project, connect people with each other, or share helpful ideas, you’ll position yourself as an asset to someone else’s professional network.
Sometimes it can be uncomfortable when trying to build relationships at work, but those experiences will help you grow:
- Volunteer for a cross-functional team or special project.
- Participate in the employee feedback committee.
- Sign up for the “washers” tournament at the company picnic.
- Invite a new coworker to lunch.
Networking Across the Net
Traditionally, networking takes place at events such as business seminars, industry conferences, or local, professional associate-led events. You can wander exhibit halls to mingle with industry experts, colleagues and suppliers. But can you get these same benefits without leaving your home or workplace? The answer is yes.
The business climate has changed and you may find you have coworkers, clients, or suppliers that you’ve never met face-to-face. Professional organizations have taken the last year to learn best practices for hosting networking events in non-traditional spaces. These range from virtual meet-and-greet happy hours to full-on multi-day conferences. Follow professional organizations on their social media channels or subscribe to their newsletters to get a sense of what events you can attend from the comfort of your own home.
Speaking of social media, if you “meet” other attendees or industry leaders that you’d like to connect with, find them on LinkedIn and send a connection request. I read the local business journal to find people who have recently been promoted or are spotlighted in an article. I mention the article in my LinkedIn request, congratulate them, and ask to connect.
Making the Most of Mentors
Mentoring programs have been shown to increase employee satisfaction and retention rates, but how do you create a meaningful one? A mentoring program creates relationships between employees that allow for the development and transfer of institutional knowledge to help less experienced employees grow professionally.
Common Mentoring Relationships
- One-to-one: designed to be a long-term relationship between two employees
- Flash mentoring: a one-time meeting between the mentor and mentee
- Group mentoring: one mentor sharing knowledge with several employees at once
- Reverse mentoring: a young, tech-savvy mentor shares info about emerging technology
Mentors are employees or industry leaders with wisdom and experience, plus the ability to share openly, fairly, and without reservation. Mentees are employees who have shown potential for growth. Some are new to the industry while others are ready to move into leadership positions.
In addition to building future leaders for your organization, mentorship programs unite employees with different backgrounds and levels of experience to create better relationships and a more cohesive team.
Training Resources to Help Build Relationships at Work
As an employer you want your employees to gain the knowledge and skills they need to be successful. When you work with ej4, you gain access to a full library of off-the-shelf training videos that includes courses on all the topics mentioned above and more. With a full directory of self-directed learning options, your employees can find the courses they need at any time.
We offer courses like:
- Active Listening
- DISC Training
- How to Be a Great Conversationalist
- Emotional Intelligence
- Unconscious Bias
- Anti-Racism Continuum
- Building Your Network
- Workplace Friendships
- Team Building
- And more...
- Improve Employee Social Awareness Through Workplace Empathy
- Anti-Racism in the Workplace: Start a Conversation
- Communication Skills Training in a World of Emojis, YOLO, and Ghosting