15 tips to create meaningful relationships at work

By Lia Sestric | April 26, 2021

meaningful relationship at work
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Building relationships in the workplace can make your career more meaningful. Having connections with a large and diverse network of people can be an invaluable resource to advancing your career or tackling roadblocks that may come up, according to Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and creator of the advice website The Popular Man.

“Employees should be creating meaningful relationships with everyone in their sphere of influence: managers, co-workers, subordinates, clients and even the janitor,” Bennett said.

If you’re wondering how to make friends at work, GOBankingRates spoke to experts who shared these 15 relationship-building tips. Learn the soft skills that will really put your career on track.

  1. Put in Some Effort with Everyone
    Although you don’t have to put in the same amount of effort with everyone, the key to meaningful relationships is putting in some with everyone you meet, according to Caleb Backe, marketing manager and HR representative for Maple Holistics.

    “Obviously, working to foster a relationship with people whom you work with or come into contact with frequently will make things more comfortable and even promote productivity,” Backe said. “This should go without saying. However, where things get tough is making an effort with the people you don’t see regularly and whom you don’t have to work alongside.”

    Something as simple as introducing yourself when you see someone new or who you’re not familiar with will establish a positive connection, said Backe.
  2. Give Your Full Attention
    We live in an age of constant distractions, with electronic devices the main culprit. Employees can find it challenging to tune out these diversions. Doing so, however, could help with relationship building, according to Bennett.

    “If you want to build strong working relationships with other people, do your best to give them your full attention,” he said. “Even if it’s just a brief conversation, be present with them in the moment and make them feel important.”

    So, acknowledge what they’re saying and don’t look down or take out your phone when conversing at work. Spending too much time on your phone is a work habit that can cost you your next raise.
  3. Ask How You Can Help Make Their Job Easier
    Sometimes people at work need help but don’t always know how to ask or even realize they can use the assistance. This is common among managers in particular, according to Valerie Streif, a career advisor with The Mentat, a San Francisco-based organization that has helped thousands of job seekers.

    What can you do? Streif suggests taking on little projects to lessen their loads, and do those tasks in a high-quality manner. “Don’t take something extra on to make yourself look good and then do a mediocre job; you could just be making extra work for them in the long run,” she said.
  4. Keep Your Word
    When you promise to do something, come through, said Bennett, as people want to connect with employees whom they can fully trust. This is the foundation to a good working relationship, he said. “Can you be counted on to come through in crunch time? Can you deliver what you promise? Always keep your word, even in little things.”

    So, if you offered to file some paperwork, do it when you promised. Follow through on your commitment.
  5. Don’t Take Things Personally
    According to Streif, you shouldn’t let your manager’s bad mood or occasional bad day affect you. The same goes for criticism. Appear as though you can handle it.

    “If you can show you approach their feedback from a logical, professional perspective instead of getting emotional and defensive, it will help to ease tension and keep the tone of your relationship progressive and professional,” she said. Remember, if you ultimately want to be an entrepreneur, you can’t let someone’s bad attitude get in your way.
  6. Socialize Effectively on Your Breaks
    What’s the secret to making work friends? Not tuning out on your breaks, according to Bennett. Avoid retreating to your phone or running out to lunch solo. Instead, use breaks to socialize with others in the company.

    “Try to build rapport with your co-workers. If you can find things in common and bond over those, it will create a stronger relationship when you’re back on the clock,” he said.
  7. Show Kindness
    Treating others how you want to be treated seems like a basic principle. As you may have learned over the course of your work history, that’s not always the case. You can build stronger relationships, though, by being the person who shows kindness to everyone, not just those who cut the paychecks, said Streif.

    “You’ll want to be known around the office in a bright light and if you appear arrogant or dismissive to people you don’t work directly with, it will make it impossible to build a good reputation,” she said.
  8. Take Advantage of Company Events
    Sometimes the best opportunities for building relationships in the workplace are outside of office hours. When there are company events, such as an office party or a company-wide event, you should go.

    “Attend the happy hour, go to the yearly picnic and immerse yourself in other company-sponsored social events,” Bennett said. “You can get to know employees on a more personal level and even meet their families. This creates a deeper connectivity and level of trust.”

    Even when you’re low on the totem pole, use company events to network — you never know how your job might grow.
  9. Show Respect
    Another golden rule for building solid relationships with co-workers and superiors is showing respect. This means listening to your teammate’s ideas when engaging in conversations and showing respect for what’s being said, even if they are saying things you don’t agree with.

    “If you get promoted, you may be managing them and you want them to respect you and know that you’re a fair boss,” Streif said. “If they get promoted, you’ll want them to respect you as one of the people they manage.”
  10. Make Them Look Good
    Making sure you always put your best foot forward is sure way to build healthy relationships in the workplace. Although you may not be the face of the company, you do represent it.

    “Your immediate manager has your future with that company in their hands, but you also are a part of their future,” said Ty Belknap, a professional life coach and founder of MyCoach.Life. “You are there not only to do your job and help customers; you are also there to help make the manager look good.”

    So if you want to be on your manager’s good side and build that relationship, think about their needs and how they want the company to be portrayed. Belkap recommends letting them know you’re there for them and finding solutions to problem areas. When you’re doing that on a regular basis, you’re in a prime position to ask for a raise.
  11. Anticipate Needs
    Thinking ahead and letting your boss know your wheels are always turning can do much more than launch your career forward. It can bring the two of you closer.

    According to Streif, little things are appreciated, such as having research ready before it’s asked. Don’t get carried away, however. Getting too involved could be viewed as overbearing, so know the limits. Avoid doing personal errands like picking up dry cleaning, or removing items from a co-worker or boss’s personal workspace without asking.
  12. Be a Team Player
    We’ve all heard the expression, “there’s no ‘i’ in team.” That old adage can also be useful in workplace, particularly for building relationships.

    “Great teamwork is paramount to any vibrant culture,” according to Tammy Perkins, Chief People Officer with Fjuri, and a career expert and former HR exec with Amazon and Microsoft. “Fostering strong working relationships will increase performance and job satisfaction.”

    That means going along with things, even if doesn’t always fit your agenda.
  13. Show Gratitude
    Showing your appreciation doesn’t mean having to buy gifts or doing something to impress management or an employee. It can boil down to a simple thank you and smile.

    “Appreciate what it takes to motivate people and understand the little things that make a difference,” said Perkins. “I make sure to thank coworkers for their contributions, and I treat others with respect.”

    Sometimes those two little words can be the tools to increase productivity in a coworker, making the workplace better for all.
  14. Be Authentic and Address Challenges
    Openly address challenges along the way, recommends Perkins, as you don’t want anything interfere with work relationships. “Cut out any gossip, drama or issues of anyone being disrespectful — it creates unnecessary noise and distraction,” she said.

    The most successful workers celebrate wins and openly address challenges. Only then, can a relationship thrive, Perkins said. Not addressing challenges is also a way to ensure you won’t be getting a raise in the near future.
  15. View People as Good
    Be optimistic and see the glass as half full. More often than not, work will be full of good individuals, and not bad eggs to watch out for. So think of them as such until they demonstrate otherwise, according to Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent.

    “Most people are good,” Walfish said. “Those who are not will reveal themselves in time and you can weed out the ones who are not worthy of your trust.”

    After all, a relationship can’t succeed if you don’t it from the start. So, think positively.


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