10 Quick Tips for Developing Stronger Relationships at Work
Building relationships at work can often go on the backburner when we are so focused on our projects and deliverables. We might forget that relationship building is key to both our job satisfaction and career development. Being passionate about our line of work is great and means we can deliver great value. However, forming a strong network and learning how to cultivate relationships with colleagues is crucial for delivering even greater value in the long-term. Reasons for this include the value that comes from collaborating with others, knowledge-sharing across teams and departments, and increased productivity from knowing who to go to for a specific problem. So why do many people often struggle with building and maintaining relationships at work? The challenges often include not having the time, not knowing how to approach this or how to sustain lines of communication. Creating strong relationships at work can often seem like another ‘task’ to add to our never-ending to-do lists. To overcome this, there are ways we can embed this into our day-to-day roles and make this an ‘on-the-job’ activity. This way, it becomes a natural part of our working life. This can be done in baby steps and doesn’t have to take up a whole load of time. The list below will give you some ideas on how you can start integrating relationship-building into your working day. Some steps may require a little more time investment, but others should be easy to implement right away. Make a decision on how much effort you want to put in and what would suit your situation best. Here are 10 quick tips for developing stronger relationships at work:
Have 1:1s with key team members when starting a new role
As you are starting a new position, you are likely to be joining a wider team. Even if you’re not and your role is more siloed, you will still be operating as part of a wider department. Identify both your team members and who you will be working with closely early on, especially your manager. Take the opportunity of being new in the role to proactively set up meetings with those key colleagues. Make it an informal coffee meeting if you can and use it to ask questions about their role and how you can best work together. It gives you an informal opportunity to find out more about their working style and personality. It also gives an insight into the work you will be doing. You will have then taken the first step in building your relationship with someone, meaning when you go into that first meeting with them, you have established a connection early on and it won’t be so nerve-wracking!
Ask colleagues for feedback regularly
The reason asking for feedback can help you to build relationships at work is that shows your openness and willingness to learn. You are also indicating that you value others’ views and opinions. When you get this feedback, you will also get an insight into what others’ value in a teammate, which is extremely useful information for future relationship building. They are often also likely to ask you for feedback in return, which gives you chance to offer them some benefit too. You can ask for feedback in written form and many companies have systems that allow you to do this. However, it is always more valuable to have a discussion too. You can either take pure verbal feedback and write notes, or you can have a follow-up discussion on written feedback you have received.
Go for lunch with your teammates or wider department
This may seem obvious, but many people choose to have lunch at their desk or on their own, which is completely fine some of the time. Your personality and natural style can generally drive how you choose to spend your time at work. But if you do enjoy socialising and want to build closer or more natural relationships at work, going for lunch with the team is a great way to do this. In the early stages of starting a role, this can particularly help you to get to know your teammates on a more personal level. People often go into a different mode at lunch time, which means it’s a chance to experience team dynamics on a different level!
Have walking meetings
You may be wondering what this means and why it can enhance your relationships at work. Walking meetings are an alternative to sitting in a small, stuffy room to have a conversation with a colleague. Of course, if you need computers or are taking lots of notes, this may not work. However, if you are bouncing ideas off each other or doing anything else that just requires talking, consider this option. Go for a walk either around the building or even better, outside if you can. The reason this can positively affect your relationships is that the whole feel of the conversation can change with the environment you are in. Walking and talking can make for a more informal dynamic (and also better ideas!). Just changing the environment or way of working can actually help to create a more relaxed ambience, which can result in a richer conversation and ultimately put you both at ease in each other’s presence.
Make small talk!
The phrase ‘small talk’ can often get a lot of eye rolls from people, but as annoying as it sounds, it has to be done. You can find your own way of doing this that suits you the most. See it as office etiquette and a way of eventually developing deeper conversations in the long term. Just asking someone how their weekend was shows that you are interested in others, and most people love talking about themselves. It also brings personal lives into workplace conversations, which can help in connecting with others.
Get involved in ‘extra-curricular’ activities
When you are at university, there are an endless number of clubs and societies you can join. At work, there are often equivalent groups, especially at large organisations. Even in small companies, there may be regular activities that people do together. Joining these is a good way of developing relationships with a wider network of people in your company. You may find that others in your department are also involved, but you are likely to meet new people as well. You may discover teams, departments and projects that you never knew existed. And you will also be adding to your career development portfolio too.
Be curious about others’ roles
People love talking about themselves. Asking others about what they do will not only give you a better understanding of how the company works, but it will also help you to forge relationships with others. We all spend a good portion of our time at work, and therefore it forms a large part of who we are. Asking questions about people’s goals, motivations and experiences is a good way to get conversations flowing.
You have been hired into a role with a certain level of knowledge and expertise. Even if you are new to a role, you always have something to offer. Both early on and as you develop and grow into your role, know what your strengths are. Use these strengths to help others when they need it. You might be particularly good at a technical skill which you could help others with. Or, you could be great at delivering impactful presentations and could give colleagues tips on this. Whatever it is, helping others is a sure way of building strong relationships as you are offering value to others, which is likely to be reciprocated in the future.
When we think of networking, we often imagine going to an event full of people we don’t know. However, networking often means cultivating your existing relationships too. Going for informal coffee meetings with colleagues is a form of networking. Attending internal conferences and events and speaking to the person next to you is networking. Meeting someone new when you are doing some company training is networking. Start to view your internal activities as building your network and you are likely to realise the strengths and opportunities you have without leaving your employer’s building.
Socialise outside of work
The opportunities to socialise outside of work varies from company to company. Your preference on how you do this will heavily depend on your personality and what you enjoy doing in your spare time. There may be regular company events like Christmas parties that you can attend. Or, your team may go out for dinners on a regular basis. You may even form strong bonds with individuals that means you develop a friendship outside of work. In any scenario, socialising in a relaxed environment, doing a completely non work-related activity, is a great way to create bonds that go beyond the workplace. Just be aware that you still have to see these colleagues in a formal environment every day and be mindful of what this means for your interactions and behaviour in these situations! Building relationships at work doesn’t always have to take up extra time. Although some methods require more time investment, the key is to embed the behaviour into your working life so it becomes natural and easy. Pick just one tip from the above list to implement and see how it goes!
If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, watch our webinar on How Science Graduates Can Get a High Paying Job Outside the Lab Even if You Have Little to No Work Experience.