How to Establish and Maintain Good Relationships in the Workplace
You spend most of your time with them. With a single word, they can make or ruin your day. They know more about you than does your own mother. They're your co-workers and your associates, your bosses and your employees, your clients and your colleagues. In fact, all of your workmates have an enormous impact on your mood, stress level, and emotional well-being.
It's all too easy for relationships in the workplace to go sour. Unresolved conflict in a professional setting can cause stress for you and ultimately your loved ones. How many times have you anticipated escaping a bad day at work, only to arrive home in a mood so unpleasant that you took out your bad temper on your spouse, kids, pets, or friends? Simply put, if your day is ruined, so is everyone else's.
Here are five basic tips that will help you prevent conflict and maintain a good working relationship with your co-workers:
- Your work relationships begin, not the first day on the job, but at the job interview. The interview is when you meet your future colleagues. Keep in mind that these are the people with whom you're going to spend most of your time. Be friendly - though they may be just fleeting faces to you now, they will notice you and remember you. This first interaction counts far more than you'd think.
- While on the job, behave decently and respectfully towards everyone -- from the mail clerk to the CEO. This is recommended not merely because that modest-seeming mail clerk may very well evolve into the CEO at some point, but because the cornerstone of good working relationships is a mutually respectful attitude. Respect breeds respect. Disrespect breeds disrespect. If you don't believe it, think about how hard it is to "smart off" to somebody who is being utterly civil and decent to you. Be decent to your colleagues and they will return the favor.
- Avoid social cliques. Don't hang out exclusively with people in your own department, of your own age or socioeconomic class, or who share your interests or job classification. Oh, it's fine sometimes...but not all the time. Branching out can be challenging. Yet if you avoid cliques, you avoid excluding and offending your co-workers. The Golden Rule has it right -- welcome others and they will welcome you. You may even find that those with whom you assumed you had nothing in common are well worth getting to know.
And avoiding cliques will not hurt you professionally, no matter what some networking gurus say. Hobnob with the bigwigs all you want, but you're not going to succeed by alienating anybody -- just the opposite.
- In the event you witness a personal conflict, don't take sides. Matters of business are one thing -- after all, your professional opinion is part of what you're paid for. But if you're thinking of insisting that Mark in Accounting must be lying because Joe in Human Resources happens to be your best golfing buddy, think again. It's better to remain neutral and let the combatants fight it out themselves.
- If all else fails and conflict between you and a co-worker arises (and eventually it will), then absolutely, positively do not ignore it. It's tempting to brush over conflict and pretend it doesn't exist. But therein lies disaster. Turn the other cheek, and work-related conflict will bite you in the rear. Disaster lies, too, in aggressive confrontation, manipulation, revenge, and other assorted dominating behaviors. The key to resolving work conflict is to address it in a clear, straightforward, and sincere manner.
The above advice is a great beginning toward resolving conflicts in the workplace before they start. Remember that a good working relationship lets you do your job without hindrance and allows you to maintain your emotional health on the job, which reduces your stress level. A lower stress level on the job means better emotional health off the job. And better emotional health means happier family and friends.
No doubt about it -- maintaining a good relationship in the workplace allows you to give the best of yourself to the people who matter to you most.