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Australians spend a whopping third of their life at work. Are your workplace relationships making that chunk of time a happy or a stressful experience?

The stronger your professional relationships, the easier your job will be. When colleagues trust each other, your entire organisation wins. More than a proven way to increase team morale and productivity, when you enjoy spending time at work your life will be a happier and more balanced place too.

If you’re struggling with workplace relationships, or looking for small changes to keep improving as a colleague, here are 13 proven ways to build positive relationships at work.

#1 – Arrive on time

How you do one thing is how you do everything.

Positive relationships begin when you respect your workplace and the people in it. That means turning up on time every single day. If you start at 9am, arrive at 8:50am and be ready to start work at 9am.

When life feels busy it’s easy to assume 5 minutes here or 10 minutes there won’t matter. The truth is, time is the most precious resource anyone has. If you want to respect your colleagues, it starts by respecting their time. When people can trust you’ll arrive on time, you’ve built the foundations for a healthy, positive relationship.

#2 – Trust your colleagues

Arriving on time is just one example of the most important trait a positive workplace needs – trust.

When you trust your colleagues, you develop a bond that promotes clear communication and healthy boundaries. Even better, co-workers will go above and beyond when they trust you. This creates a snowball effect that elevates your entire team and workplace.

Here are a collection of Me&Work tips to build trust in the workplace:

  • Be honest
  • Give the benefit of the doubt
  • If you make a promise, stick to it
  • Set the standard for the results you want to see
  • Include others (this could be work meetings or lunch conversations)

Without trust there’s no foundation for a positive relationship.

#3 – Practice active listening

There’s a difference between hearing what someone says, and understanding what someone says.

It’s easy to nod and smile while your colleague explains a work-related frustration, but much harder to actively listen, concentrate, understand and respond with support. When you can demonstrate active listening (as opposed to passive listening) you’ll find yourself gaining people’s trust. Making a conscious effort to hear what people are saying, deferring judgement, and responding honestly and openly is a proven way to build positive relationships at work.

#4 – Communicate, communicate, communicate

Like any relationship, communication is key.

Bringing an open and transparent attitude to work shows people you’re trustworthy and a valuable member of the team. As technology is part of the majority of workplaces, clear communication should exist across:

  • Texts
  • Emails
  • Face-to-face chats
  • Instant messaging software (e.g. Slack)
  • Project management software (e.g. Asana, Trello)

Clear communication comes from clear expectations. Once you know what you need from someone, be clear and direct with your language to avoid miscommunication. The better you communicate, the stronger your workplace relationships will be.

Are you struggling with workplace-related mental health challenges? Find out how to talk to your boss about your mental health.

#5 – Give credit…

If you’ve ever worked with someone who gives credit and shares their success, you’ll know what a positive impact this has on a work environment.

When you highlight the success of others you’ll increase the confidence of your colleagues and boost their morale – both sure-fire ways to build positive relationships in the workplace. Taking 10 seconds to praise someone, or to pass on praise to management, is an investment in your work relationships. When you give credit, you create stronger bonds.

#6 – …Take blame

If giving credit is the easy part, taking blame is tougher.

Nothing damages a working relationship like a lack of trust. Assigning blame to others (when you should shoulder part of that blame) is guaranteed to cause fractures and create a negative working environment.

This does NOT mean you should let others off the hook if they were accountable for poor performance. Instead, acknowledge failure as a group. If your team fell short of a deadline or missed a KPI, it was your team that failed – not an individual.

#7 – Respect everyone’s role

Mutual respect is a powerful relationship builder. You may not understand the challenges your colleagues face (especially if you’re working with a large team with multiple layers of management) but you should always respect them.

Whether it’s an intern getting coffee or the CEO juggling multiple responsibilities, respecting that everyone has a role to play will help you develop appreciation. And when you appreciate the people around you, it’s easy to cultivate positive feelings towards them.

#8 – Know when to ask for help

It’s a mistake to think asking for help at work will make you look weak, uncertain or a liability. Asking for help can strengthen workplace relationships in multiple ways, from giving others a chance to showcase their skills and build their confidence, and by providing closer working relationships where trust and positivity can develop.

Keep in mind, relationships are built on give and take. When you ask for assistance, be prepared to provide assistance in return when others need a helping hand.

#9 – Practice mindfulness at work

No matter what environment you’re in, it’s easy to feel like the working day flies by. Studies from Harvard have shown most people spend 50% of their day in a distracted state.

This might bring each weekend closer, but it doesn’t build positive relationships at work. Mindfulness, or connecting your body and mind in the present moment, is the opposite of being on auto-pilot. Simple mindfulness hacks for work include:

  • Don’t answer emails during meetings
  • Stay off your computer at lunch (and spend time with workmates instead)
  • Single-task (multitasking and mindfulness do not match)

When you focus on being in the present moment you can get to know your colleagues, spot any problems as they arise, and build positive relationships naturally.

#10 – Avoid gossip

If open communication builds positive workplace relationships, gossip does the opposite.

It’s natural to have conversations about teammates and colleagues when they’re not around, but keep these professional and positive. Gossip is a toxic workplace trait that can quickly spread, so it’s best to avoid it all together (for workplace culture AND your reputation).

If you need to have a conversation with a colleague, find a way to have it openly and with a positive goal in mind.

#11 – Schedule time to build relationships

There’s no rule that says you can’t speed up the process of building relationships. While relationships take time and grow organically, you can do your part by creating time specifically for team building.

This time could be scheduled during lunch, in the first 10 minutes of a meeting, or before you all head home at the end of the day. Time together is a crucial ingredient for positive relationships, with after work events and activities a common way to bond people and create quality time outside of normal duties.

#12 – Stay positive

Positivity is contagious.

Think about your own relationships in life, do the people you enjoy spending time with make you feel happy and uplifted? You can evoke these same feelings in your colleagues by coming to work happy and optimistic.

Whether it’s starting the day with a smile, encouraging a colleague with a mood-boosting compliment about their latest project, or motivating the team throughout the day – positivity adds energy to the workplace that’s impossible to ignore.

#13 – Focus on the little things

Positive workplace relationships are built brick by brick, day by day. There are no shortcuts to building relationships that make your workplace more productive and your day brighter. By doing little things each day you lay the foundation for respectful, honest and trustworthy connections. Small daily acts include:

  • asking about a colleague’s weekend
  • greeting your co-workers in the morning
  • maintaining eye contact during meetings
  • staying off social media while someone is speaking

These acts seem small at the time, but they’re the secret to positive working relationships that last.

The power of building positive workplace relationships

No matter what industry you’re in, positive workplace relationships are a necessity, not a bonus.

You’ll spend an average of 90,000 hours at work across your lifetime, making your professional relationships as crucial as your personal relationships. By treating others the way you’d like to be treated, you’ll have the foundations of a healthy relationship in place. This means respecting those around you, actively listening to your teammate’s problems, and putting in the effort to make connections. Remember, positive relationships take time, but they’re the secret to enjoying your working life.

Me&Work helps organisations develop healthy and productive work environments so people can thrive. If you’d like assistance in creating a work environment that prioritises and promotes mental health and wellbeing, contact our friendly team on 1300 90 45 57 or use our contact form to organise a meeting with our staff.