Almost half of all employees in firms with more than 250 workers dislike one or more colleagues. But one-third of us have a best friend at work.
Author and consultant Jill Cook-Richards cautions us to never make friends in the workplace. According to Cook-Richards, keeping emotions out of the workplace allows us to consider relationships from a purely professional point of view.
Yet in an article for the Harvard Business Review®, Christine M. Riordan, provost and professor of management at the University of Kentucky, highlights the value of friendships at work. She claims that friendships in the workplace can make us more feel more engaged and supported in our professional roles.
No matter what your role in IT is—from support and project management, to application development and business intelligence—our professional relationships are crucial to our ability to be effective and successful at work. However, though it’s logical to want to focus on good relationships, it’s equally important to manage the difficult ones. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Good relationships are built on trust, respect, and mindfulness. When maintained properly, they provide a mutually supportive and constructive environment. The following tips will help you build good relationships:
- Be courteous. Common courtesy goes a long way in creating a pleasant workplace. Even if you’re knee-deep in a project, always acknowledge others. Say “please” and “thank you,” and if you’re having a bad day, don’t take it out on others.
- Communicate effectively. It’s essential to communicate with your co-workers in a way that leaves nothing to chance. Whether it’s in person, on the phone, or by email, be professional, clear, and concise. Use subject lines in emails, respond to all communications in a timely manner, and avoid chitchat.
- Be respectful of other people’s time. If you need to speak to somebody and he or she is busy, come back later or send an email to schedule a meeting. Additionally, be mindful of people’s personal time, and keep business-related topics for the office.
- Develop your Emotional Intelligence (EI). Understanding your own emotions and those of others goes a long way in maintaining good relationships. If you’re upset with somebody, figure out why and try to see things from the other person’s perspective before discussing the issue. This will give you a more objective overview of situations and allow you be more attuned to solutions.
Difficult relationships at work can be managed so they don’t affect your well-being or productivity. Here’s how:
- Welcome diverse opinions. Other people’s opinions, especially when they don’t match yours, can offer you insights into projects. Never simply disregard their input without carefully evaluating its validity and how it can contribute to the overall project.
- Be direct. Avoid guarded conversations that contribute to a mistrustful workplace. Instead, be honest and direct in a polite and professional manner. This will allow you to speak your mind and work toward solutions.
- Be welcoming. Make yourself available for discussions and meetings, even if you don’t like the person. By not evading your difficult colleague, you can continue to do your job while sending a message of professionalism to your boss and co-workers.
- Don’t gossip. Gossiping is quite simply one of the worst career mistakes you can make. Not only can it be hurtful and antagonizing; it can also come back to haunt you later on in your career. It’s much more productive to take an objective stance and concentrate on your work, not how you feel about the people you work with.
Relationships at work play a large role in our happiness and our success. As author and management consultant Diana McLain Smith reminds us, “Anytime you find yourself up against somebody who frustrates you, that person is telling you you’re at the limits of your competence.”
So instead of getting frustrated, employ the above tips to build good relationships while simultaneously managing the difficult ones. Though you’re not at work to make friends, you’re not there to make enemies either!
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