Your Guide to Friendly Yet Professional Workplace Relationships
An average employee spends more than one-third of their day in the office. That’s A LOT of time spent with your mates at work. That said, it’s a no-brainer your relationships with your coworkers determine how much you enjoy your job, and ultimately your life.
With good office camaraderie, work can become much more bearable (and maybe even fun!). Your colleagues need not be your besties. They just need to be a synergistic group of individuals that help each other thrive and feel safe at work.
Nonetheless, building and maintaining healthy workplace relationships can be tricky. So, let’s explore how we can create that friendly atmosphere while keeping professional composure.
Why Do Good Relationships At Work Matter?
People think, feel, and act not just as individuals but also as group members - illustrating what psychologists call the Social Identity Theory. When we see ourselves as part of a group, we can easily see the world from their perspective, and hence we work more efficiently with them. The sense of “we-ness” impacts our well-being in many ways. It boosts our sense of belonging, meaning, and agency, among other things.
Increased health and wellbeing
A meta-analysis in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review found that people who feel more connected with their colleagues report better health and happiness (1). They are also less likely to burnout.
More synergy at work
Leaders who encourage authenticity and transparency among their teams can prevent people from feeling unappreciated and dehumanized (2). And when people feel safe at the workplace, they feel more empowered to speak up and share ideas.
A source of inspiration and support
We all could use some moral support when work gets tough. Workplace camaraderie can be deeply energizing. This is especially when we step up for each other, acknowledge each other’s strengths, and complement each other’s weaknesses.
Enhanced motivation and productivity
Research on self-determination theory shows that on top of cultivating a sense of autonomy and freedom, motivation at work is greatly influenced by our connection to others (3). When we’re part of a group that sees the best in each other, it motivates and inspires everyone to become better.
Four Ways to Cultivate Healthy Work Relationships
Of course, the detrimental impact of unhealthy relationships at work - such as discrimination, bullying, and hostile bosses, has been studied as well (4). Toxic workplaces can harm one’s mental health, job satisfaction, and ability to engage at work. And we’re well aware people quit jobs or entire industries due to bad colleagues or managers. Fortunately, healthy workplace interactions can be nurtured and rekindled. Here’s how:
1) Maintain a power balance
Maintaining an equal balance of power within an organization is the foundation of healthy relationships. We must first create level playing fields where people from all departments and positions engage in respectful communication and open discussion.
Knowing that gossip and office politics erode trust, it is everyone’s responsibility to keep an open line of communication. In other words, never talk behind people’s backs or engage in acts of discrimination.
2) Understand others and your own needs
Take some time to understand your own and your team’s working styles and needs. This can be extremely helpful among remote and hybrid teams. From working hours to working pace, be clear about your needs and clearly communicate them with your colleagues. 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.
This also includes showing what you bring to the table. How can you give back and uphold your commitments? Your team needs to trust you can get work done. So, proving yourself a trustworthy ally will make strengthening that workplace bond easier too.
3) Set healthy boundaries
From flexible dress codes to sharing memes, the modern workplace is becoming increasingly casual and informal. This is all wonderful and keeps things fun amidst the mundane. But it can sometimes blur the line between “professional” and “friendly”.
Therefore, we need to establish when it’s time to be professional, and when it’s appropriate to break out TikTok dances. For example, avoid casual chats or unrelated tasks during meetings. On the contrary, feel free to engage in friendly convos during lunch breaks or after work. Doing so ensures everyone takes work seriously and is more productive to get things done.
Also, respect others if they prefer to keep their personal lives away from work completely. They might prefer to come in, work, and go home at the end of the day. Don’t take it personally. There’s still beauty in these congenial friendships and enjoying work without the strings.
4) Listen intently
Part of being a successful team member is the ability to hear what others have to say. Practice emotional intelligence, be receptive to people’s words, and use appropriate body language.
You may even encourage others to give you feedback on how you can improve. Expressing this level of engagement helps you grow professionally and personally. It also conveys your empathy and credibility within the team.
Cultivating and championing balanced work relationships is an art on its own. It may require time, emotional intelligence, and lots of self-awareness. But the overall satisfaction and efficiency as a result of those connections will certainly be worthwhile.
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