Tips on How to Develop Effective Work Relationships
BY SUSAN M. HEATHFIELD Updated on January 25, 2021
You can damage your career and work relationships by the actions you take and the behaviors you exhibit with coworkers at work. No matter your education, your experience, your personality, or your title, if you can't play well with others, you will never accomplish your work mission. And, what is your key desire at work—other than earning enough to support your family—it's to accomplish your work mission.
Effective Interpersonal Relationships Are Key to Success
Effective interpersonal work relationships form the cornerstone for success and satisfaction with your job and your career. How important are effective work relationships? They form the basis for promotional opportunities, pay increases, goal accomplishment, and job satisfaction.
The Gallup organization studied indicators of work satisfaction. They found that whether you have a best friend at work was one of the twelve key questions asked of employees that predicted job satisfaction. Without a good friend or friends, at work, the work satisfaction of employees deteriorates.
What Happens When You Don't Play Well With Others?
A supervisor who worked in a several-hundred-person company quickly earned a reputation for not playing well with others. He collected data and used the data to find fault, place blame, and make other employees look bad. He enjoyed identifying problems and problem patterns, but he rarely suggested solutions.
He bugged his supervisor weekly for a bigger title and more money so that he could tell the other employees what to do. When he announced that he was job hunting, not a single employee suggested that the company take action to convince him to stay.
Warning: He had burned his bridges all along the way. And no one will have a good word to say about him when an employer who is checking references comes their way.
The Top 7 Ways to Play Well With Others at Work
These are the top seven ways you can play well with others at work. They form the basis for building effective interpersonal work relationships. These are the actions you want to take to create a positive, empowering, motivational work environment for people:
1. Bring Suggested Solutions to Problems to the Meeting Table
Some employees spend an inordinate amount of time identifying problems. Honestly? That's the easy part. Thoughtful solutions are the challenge that will earn respect and admiration from your coworkers and bosses.
Your willingness to defend your solution until a better or improved approach is decided on by the team is also a plus. Your commitment to the implementation of the solution finally selected matters in idea generation, too.
2. Don't Ever Play the Blame Game
You alienate coworkers, supervisors, and reporting staff. Yes, you may need to identify who was involved in a problem. You may even ask Dr. W. Edwards Deming's recommended question: what about the work system caused the employee to fail? The system is the source of most problems.
3. Your Verbal and Nonverbal Communication Matters
If you talk down to another employee, use sarcasm, or sound nasty, the other employee hears you. Humans are all radar machines that constantly scope out the environment in both verbal and nonverbal communication. When you talk to another employee with a lack of respect, the message comes through loudly and clearly.
In one organization, a high-level manager once asked this question of a consultant, "I know you don't think I should scream at my employees. But sometimes, they make me so mad. When is it ever appropriate for me to scream at the employees?"
The answer? Never, of course, if respect for people is a hallmark of your organization—which it should be, and it is in massively successful companies.
4. Never Blind Side a Coworker, Boss, or Reporting Staff Person
If the first time a coworker hears about a problem is in a staff meeting or from an email sent to their supervisor, you have blindsided the coworker. Always discuss problems first, with the people directly involved who own the work system.
Also called ambushing your coworkers, you will never build effective work alliances unless your coworkers trust you. And without alliances, you will never accomplish the most important goals for your job and career. You cannot do it alone, so treat your coworkers as you expect them to treat you.
5. Keep Your Commitments
In an organization, work is interconnected. If you fail to meet deadlines and commitments, you affect the work of other employees. Always keep commitments, and if you can't, make sure all affected employees know what happened. Provide a new due date and make every possible effort to honor the new deadline.
Note: It is not okay for an organization to just quietly allow deadlines to slip by. Your coworkers, even if they fail to confront you, will think less of you and disrespect your actions. And, no, don't think even for a second that they didn't notice that the deadline passed. You insult them if you even consider the possibility that they didn't notice.
6. Share Credit for Accomplishments, Ideas, and Contributions
How often do you accomplish a goal or complete a project with no help from others? If you are a manager, how many of the great ideas you promote were contributed by staff members?
Take the time, and expend the energy, to thank, reward, recognize and specify the contributions of the people who help you succeed. It is a no-fail approach to building effective work relationships. Share credit; deflect blame and failure.
7. Help Other Employees Find Their Greatness
Every employee in your organization has talents, skills, and experience. If you can help fellow employees harness their best abilities, you benefit the organization immeasurably. The growth of individual employees benefits the whole.
Compliment, praise, and notice their contributions. You don't have to be a manager to help create a positive, motivating environment for employees. In this environment, employees do find and contribute their greatness in seeking the accomplishment of the organization's purpose and goals. They will always remember that you were part of bringing it out of them. Those interpersonal work relationships are cherished.