Simple Steps to Improving Workplace Relationships

If you are employed by a business or organization, there is a good chance you spend a lot of time with other staff members, either occasionally or all day. Having strong workplace relationships can make a significant difference in your productivity and job satisfaction. We all know we can’t directly cause another person to change, but there are a few simple steps you can take to contribute to good relationships and a positive work environment.

Carry your weight – You could be a really nice person, but if you aren’t doing your job effectively it won’t be long before your relationships become strained. If others have to make up for your lack of ability, knowledge or diligence, they will likely become resentful and less willing to make the effort to maintain good relations. If you make an honest assessment of your contribution to the workplace and realize you may be a “weak link”, do what you can to improve your skills. Talk with your boss or human resource department about possible training opportunities that will help you excel in your job. If you aren’t putting excess weight on your co-workers, your relationships will improve.

Stop gossiping – It’s human nature to be interested in the juicy details of another person’s life, but in the office, it’s critical to maintain integrity and professionalism. Gossip can quickly cause hurt feelings, loss of trust, and a deep wound to the reputation of both the subject of the gossip and the one who is sharing inappropriately. It can cause irreparable damage to relationships in the workplace. If you are tempted to gossip, stop and think: “Is what I am about to say true? Right? Helpful? Does it promote teamwork or division?” If someone tries to involve you in gossip, shut it down with something like: “I don’t think this is something we should discuss here at work. Let’s keep our conversation positive and professional.” Your co-workers will appreciate your integrity and everyone will have a better environment at work.

Discuss differences appropriately – No one agrees with everyone all the time. In fact, healthy debate about differences of opinion can ignite creativity, better problem-solving, and positive growth. The key is keeping it solution-focused and respectful. Every person with a stake in the decision or idea should be able to express their opinions and be heard. During disagreement, ask questions like: “Can you help me understand how your idea will help solve our problem?” If you want to share an opposing view, try a non-combative approach like: “Would you consider…” or “Here are some thoughts I’d like you to consider…” Don’t be critical, impatient or judgmental as it may cause your co-worker to become defensive, which will quickly shut down communication.

Uplift and encourage – Statistics often paint a bleak picture of morale in the American workplace and you may have heard that the majority of employed people are not very satisfied in their jobs. You can’t fix the whole problem, but you can make a difference in your workplace. You can thank your co-workers when they help, compliment them when they do a good job and give them a word of encouragement when they are discouraged or frustrated. Being a good listener and focusing on what is going right can help others shift their focus from the negative to the positive. This has a direct effect on whether your co-workers get along well or have constant friction.

None of these are big steps, but each one can improve your work relationships in a big way. Poor relationships at work negatively affect morale, and morale impacts productivity. If you want to enjoy your job and have excellent relationships with the people around you, give these steps a try today… and tomorrow, and the next day…

Live, Work and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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