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How to build positive relationships at work

We know how important it is to build positive relationships in the workplace, but this often gets lost in the stress of everyday life with overflowing to-do lists. Strong professional relationships not only contribute to a harmonious work environment, but also play a crucial role in personal and organizational success.

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From our 2023 study, in which we examined the experiences of more than 1,200 women, we know that women say they need a good relationship with their manager above all else to be successful at work. We also know that investing in positive relationships at work is one of the most important ways to create more meaning and purpose.

The importance of positive relationships in the workplace

Focusing on relationships with your coworkers has many implications. Here are some key benefits to consider:

Improved collaboration: Positive relationships foster trust and open communication. When people openly share their ideas and concerns, collaboration becomes more effective, leading to improved problem-solving and innovation.

Higher job satisfaction: Building positive relationships in the workplace can make your job more enjoyable. When you have friends at work and feel supported by your coworkers, you're likely to look forward to coming to the office more each day. In fact, research by Martin Seligman shows that positive relationships with others are the best antidote to life's challenges and the most reliable source of joy.

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Career advancement: Networking and building positive relationships with colleagues can open doors to new opportunities. Whether it's a mentor, sponsor, or partnership, these connections are critical to advancing your career.

Stress reduction: A supportive network of colleagues can be a valuable source of emotional support during difficult times. Sharing your worries with trusted colleagues can reduce stress and contribute to a healthier work-life balance. This also happens on a physiological level. Positive relationships at work produce oxytocin in the body, which, among other things, lowers cortisol levels and protects the body from the negative effects of stress.

Further meaning: Investing in positive workplace relationships is one of four evidence-based ways to add meaning to work. Take some time to think about the importance of your positive workplace relationships and how you can invest more time and energy in those relationships.

10 ways to build positive relationships at work

1) Effective communication: Communication is the foundation of any positive relationship. Listen actively, ask for feedback and be open to it. Don't make assumptions and strive for clear and respectful communication.

2) Build trust: Trust is the foundation of any strong relationship. Be reliable, keep your promises and maintain confidentiality when necessary. Trust takes time to build but can be easily broken, so be careful with it.

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3) Show appreciation: Expressing gratitude and appreciation can go a long way toward building positive relationships. Recognize and acknowledge your colleagues' contributions and achievements, both publicly and privately.

4) Be a team player: Participate actively in team activities, offer your help, and be willing to work together. A team player attitude shows your commitment to the group's mutual success.

5) Conflict resolution: Conflict is inevitable in any workplace, but the way it is handled can be critical to the health of your relationships. Approach conflict calmly and professionally, and focus on finding solutions rather than assigning blame.

6) Empathy: Show empathy towards your colleagues. Try to understand their perspectives and feelings, especially in difficult situations. This can create a supportive atmosphere where people feel heard and valued.

7) Networking: Expand your professional network both inside and outside your company. Attend industry events, join professional groups, and connect with colleagues on social media platforms like LinkedIn. Networking can lead to valuable contacts and opportunities.

8) Mentoring: Find mentors or offer to mentor others. Mentoring relationships can provide guidance, encouragement, and personal growth for both parties.

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9) Balance personal and professional boundaries: While building relationships is important, it's crucial to maintain a healthy balance between your personal and professional life. Respect your colleagues' boundaries and set your own, too.

10) Continuous learning: Stay curious and open to learning from your colleagues. Everyone brings unique experiences and expertise. Be willing to share your knowledge and learn from others in return.

Building positive relationships in the workplace requires constant effort and dedication, but the rewards, both personal and professional, are well worth the investment.