A recent study found that work satisfaction rises by 25 percent when employees have friends in the office. Another found that, among millennials, those intending to stay with their company long-term were more than twice as likely to have a mentor. Clearly, interpersonal success and happiness are important in the workplace. Yet, managing interpersonal dynamics and building soft skills are often treated as the responsibility of the employee, despite being just as necessary for career and company success as any other form of professional development.
Building these healthy office relationships is like making apple pie—there are countless different personal recipes people follow, but they all have the same basic ingredients. With that in mind, here are four of the key steps in any good recipe for fostering meaningful interpersonal relationships in the office.
This seems obvious, but respect goes deeper than simply bringing a professional demeanor to your interactions. To build a respectful relationship, it’s necessary to view others as whole people, worthy of your time and consideration, and not merely as potential tools for advancement or personal benefit. In other words, don’t think of coworkers in terms of what they can do for you, but in terms of how the two of you can work together and complement one another.
Many of us have long-standing friendships that require very little upkeep to remain strong—people we grew up with or friends from college. Workplace relationships need time to reach this stage, however, and getting there requires consistent effort. In this case, communication does not refer so much to the actual content of contact, but rather to the conscious decision to make it and sustain it.
Talking about sports with your cubicle-mate can lay the foundation for a quality relationship, but if you never advance past that stage, you’re unlikely to connect with them on a meaningful level. There’s no need to pry into your coworker’s private life, but let them share what they’re comfortable with—and then reciprocate. Gaining a deeper knowledge of your coworkers (without crossing any boundaries) will help move your relationships in a more personal and less formal direction.
Nothing can replace old-fashioned face-to-face interaction when it comes to fostering quality relationships with your coworkers. This can be as simple as stopping by their desk or office for a brief chat, or it can mean getting lunch or coffee together. With coworkers who work remotely or in another office, staying in touch over e-mail is important, but it should be supplemented with in-person meetings when they are in town, or at the least regular video conferencing.
From both an individual and organizational perspective, nurturing close office relationships is an important part of career satisfaction and professional development. By thinking and acting intentionally, you can ensure that you are taking all the necessary steps to build meaningful, lasting relationships with your colleagues.