Why building great work relationships is more than just getting along

May 3, 2022 - 16 min read

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Why is building good work relationships important?

The benefits of building good working relationships 

What makes a good working relationship?

9 tips for building good work relationships

When work relationships don’t work

Working together

Building good work relationships can have a huge impact on how much you enjoy your job

If you have solid relationships with your team, you’ll be excited to go to work. You’ll love the feeling of efficiency that comes with great teamwork.

This is the power of strong professional relationships. Your coworkers might not be your best friends, and they don’t have to be. What they are is a talented group of individuals that can help you thrive at work

Plus, since the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do our jobs, building good work relationships is more important than ever. With the challenges we’ve faced over the past few years, we all need human connection. The workplace is no exception. 

That said, building good work relationships takes time and intentional effort. Here are our top tips for how to build better relationships at your job. 

 

Why is building good work relationships important?

Workplace relationships are the interactions you have with your coworkers. You can evaluate how “good” the relationship is by your amicability, respect for each other, and ability to complete tasks together

Anyone who’s worked in a toxic workplace knows why good work relationships are important. Team members who don’t trust each other will struggle to be productive. If no one gets along, it creates a poor team culture and a negative work experience for you and others. It can even spread to the company culture, affecting the viability of your employer.

Plus, if you don’t feel like you belong, it can harm your mental health and contribute to burnout

The same thing happens if you have a boss you don’t get along with. If you don't have a good relationship with your boss, they might micromanage or prioritize other team members when opportunities arise. This can harm your job satisfaction and motivation to engage at work. Ultimately, it can hold you back from succeeding in your career

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The benefits of building good working relationships 

Thankfully, positive relationships at work are entirely possible. Building great work relationships can work wonders for your career and daily work life. Here are just a few benefits: 

  • Less discomfort during meetings. In a toxic workplace, people are afraid to speak up. But, with the help of good work relationships, you’ll feel empowered to share your ideas.
  • More support from your colleagues. Work can be stressful. You’ll need moral and practical support when times get tough. Good work colleagues will step up for you when you ask, and you’ll do the same for them.

A positive workplace starts with good leadership. You should feel supported and empowered to cultivate healthy relationships. In most cases, though, it’s up to you to integrate yourself into the team. Otherwise, you may want to quit your job to protect your well-being

If you need support as you decide on a path forward, BetterUp can help. We can provide the tools you need to prioritize your well-being and make the best choice for your needs.

What makes a good working relationship?

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Working relationships have many characteristics. Here’s how to know whether you’re in a good one:

These relationship characteristics sometimes take effort to achieve. Let’s take a look at how to develop work relationships.

9 tips for building good work relationships

Ready to start building good work relationships? Start with these 9 tips: 

  1. Know what you need from your colleagues 
  2. Practice active listening 
  3. Make time for your coworkers 
  4. Follow through on your commitments 
  5. Know when to ask for help
  6. Set clear boundaries 
  7. Show gratitude 
  8. Skip the gossip 
  9. Start small 

Let’s dive in a little deeper so that you know how exactly how to build great relationships at work. 

1. Know what you need from your colleagues

What does your ideal team look like? Do you like having regular post-work happy hours? Do you enjoy working together on tight deadlines? Maybe you want a more casual pace, with more time for conversation. Or maybe your coworkers have certain skills that can help you. In return, consider what you can give back

This requires understanding your strengths and weaknesses. You should know what you bring to the table and where you need support from others. 

2. Practice active listening

Trust and great communication skills are the foundations of any healthy relationship. One of the best ways to achieve both of these is through active listening. Be receptive to people’s words, practice emotional intelligence, and use non-verbal communication to show you’re paying attention.

You might be wondering why effective communication is so important in building relationships. If you can’t tell someone how you feel, you can’t form a genuine connection. Listening to what your teammates are saying and responding appropriately creates a solid foundation. From there, you can build the best work relationships possible. 

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3. Make time for your coworkers

It’s easy to get stuck in the daily grind and neglect your relationships. To mitigate this, schedule time for a cup of coffee. And if you’re working from home, try a virtual coffee break. This will create the time you need for building good work relationships. 

4. Follow through on your commitments

Before you demand things from others, make sure you’re upholding your commitments. People need to trust that you can meet deadlines. Proving yourself as a reliable teammate will make building good work relationships easier.

5. Know when to ask for help

When it’s time, you need to know how to ask for help. Doing everything alone will only hurt your credibility as a team player. It can also produce poor results. Asking for help or delegating tasks will make sure you meet your obligations and open the door to working one-on-one with someone. That collaboration can help you build a stronger relationship.

6. Set clear boundaries 

Healthy relationship boundaries are an important part of building work friendships. It’s important to strike a balance between “a healthy work relationship” and “too much socializing.” At the end of the day, you’re still at work. 

Communicate clearly when you need time to focus rather than socialize. You can also use a time-blocking strategy to prioritize your tasks throughout the day. 

7. Show gratitude

A little goes a long way in showing appreciation to your teammates. Compliment them on their work, bring snacks for the break room, or send them thank-you notes. This kind of praise won’t go unnoticed. 

You may have days where you don’t feel grateful. However, being resilient and keeping a positive outlook is a big part of building good work relationships. 

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8. Skip the gossip

Gossip and office politics erode trust in the workplace. Avoid talking behind people’s backs. Confront them directly if you have a problem. This will keep an open line of communication and foster a better work environment.

9. Start small

Some of your coworkers are simply that — coworkers. They might prefer to come in, do their work, and go home at the end of the day. Don’t take it personally. But if you succeed in finding a peer, know that being friendly is the first step to being friends. 

When work relationships don’t work

There are many instances when you must work with a difficult colleague. You’ll need people skills to mend the relationship or make it tolerable. Here's what you can do:

1. Review your history together

If everything was fine until recently, reflect on what might have soured the relationship. Did they misunderstand something you said? Did they dislike something you did? Clear the air face-to-face.

2. Find shared goals 

They might think your ambition conflicts with theirs, causing a power imbalance. But if you find a shared goal, you can ease the friction here. Find the time to communicate openly about this with the colleague that you’re struggling with. 

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3. Look inwards

You might feel negative emotions toward someone for no good reason. Think about why they’re bothering you, and be honest about whether it’s something they did. Maybe something unconscious is causing you to dislike this person.

Even if you don’t like someone, remember that demonstrating integrity at work is key. It will help everyone know that they can trust you and allow you to be more honest with yourself. 

At the end of the day, the only thing you can control is your attitude, behavior, and actions. Focus on what you can do towards building good work relationships. If other people don’t want to do the same thing, try to let it go. In time, you’ll find the work relationships that are right for you. 

Working together

Building good work relationships can take hard work. It requires time, patience, and self-awareness. But putting in the emotional labor and building good work relationships will help you feel more connected to your colleagues and increase your overall job satisfaction. Oftentimes, learning how to build rapport is the first step to building strong relationships. 

Consider working with BetterUp for even more relationship advice. We’re here to support you as you grow your career and build your social connections.

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Published May 3, 2022

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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