Learn How to Develop Effective Work Relationships

Man and woman coworkers fit puzzle pieces together. In an effective work relationship, pieces fit together
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You can submarine your career and work relationships by the actions you take and the behaviors you exhibit at work. No matter your education, your experience, or your title, if you can't play well with others, you will never accomplish your work mission.

Effective interpersonal work relationships form the cornerstone of success and satisfaction with your job and your career. How important are effective work relationships?

They form the basis for promotional opportunities, pay increases, goal accomplishment, and job satisfaction.

The Gallup organization studied indicators of work satisfaction. They found that whether you have a best friend at work was one of the twelve key questions asked of employees that predicted job satisfaction. Without a friend at work, work satisfaction deteriorates.

What Happens When You Don't Play Well With Others?

A supervisor who worked in a several hundred person company quickly earned a reputation for not playing well with others. He collected data and used the data to find fault, place blame, and make other employees look bad. He enjoyed identifying problems but rarely suggested solutions.

He bugged his supervisor weekly for a bigger title and more money so that he could tell other employees what to do. When he announced that he was job hunting, not a single employee suggested that the company take action to convince him to stay.

He had burned his bridges all along the way. (And, no one will have a good word to say about him when an employer who is checking references comes their way.)

The Top 7 Ways to Play Well With Others at Work

These are the top seven ways you can play well with others at work. They form the basis for building effective interpersonal work relationships.

These are the actions you want to take to create a positive, empowering, motivational work environment for people.

  • Bring suggested solutions with the problems to the meeting table. Some employees spend an inordinate amount of time identifying problems. Honestly? That's the easy part. Thoughtful solutions are the challenge that will earn respect and admiration from coworkers and bosses. Your willingness to defend your solution until a better or improved approach is decided on by the team is also a plus.
  • Don't ever play the blame game. You alienate coworkers, supervisors, and reporting staff. Yes, you may need to identify who was involved in a problem. You may even ask the Dr. W. Edwards Deming recommended question: what about the work system caused the employee to fail?

    But, saying that it's not my fault and publicly identifying and blaming others for failures will earn you enemies. Throwing other employees under the bus, either privately or publicly, will also create enemies. These enemies will, in turn, help you to fail. You do need allies at work. Remember this if you want to accomplish your goals and dreams.
  • Your verbal and nonverbal communication matters. If you talk down to another employee, use sarcasm, or sound nasty, the other employee hears you. We are all radar machines that constantly scope out our environment. When you talk to another employee with a lack of respect, the message comes through loudly and clearly.

    In one organization a high-level manager once asked this question, "I know you don't think I should scream at my employees. But, sometimes, they make me so mad. When is it ever appropriate for me to scream at the employees?" The answer? Never, of course, if respect for people is a hallmark of your organization—which it should be.
  • Never blind side a coworker, boss, or reporting staff person. If the first time a coworker hears about a problem is in a staff meeting or from an email sent to his supervisor, you have blindsided the coworker. Always discuss problems, first, with the people directly involved who own the work system.

    Also called lynching or ambushing your coworkers, you will never build effective work alliances unless your coworkers trust you. And, without alliances, you will never accomplish the most important goals for your job and career. You cannot do it alone so treat your coworkers as you expect them to treat you.
  • Keep your commitments. In an organization, work is interconnected. If you fail to meet deadlines and commitments, you affect the work of other employees. Always keep commitments, and if you can't, make sure all affected employees know what happened. Provide a new due date and make every possible effort to honor the new deadline.

    It is not okay in an organization to just quietly allow deadlines to slip by. Your coworkers, even if they fail to confront you, will think less of you and disrespect your actions. And, no, don't think even for a second that they didn't notice that the deadline passed. You insult them if you even consider this possibility.
  • Share credit for accomplishments, ideas, and contributions. How often do you accomplish a goal or complete a project with no help from others? If you are a manager, how many of the great ideas you promote were contributed by staff members?

    Take the time, and expend the energy, to thank, reward, recognize and specify contributions of the people who help you succeed. This is a no-fail approach to building effective work relationships. Share credit; deflect blame and failure.
  • Help other employees find their greatness. Every employee in your organization has talents, skills, and experience. If you can help fellow employees harness their best abilities, you benefit the organization immeasurably. The growth of individual employees benefits the whole.

    Compliment, recognize, praise, and notice their contributions. You don't have to be a manager to help create a positive, motivating environment for employees. In this environment, employees do find and contribute their greatness. They will always remember that you were part of bringing it out of them. Those interpersonal work relationships are cherished.

If you regularly carry out these seven actions, you will play well with others and build effective interpersonal work relationships. Coworkers will value you as a colleague. Bosses will believe that you play on the right team—with them.

You'll accomplish your work goals, and you may even experience fun, recognition, and personal motivation. And, hey, work can't get any better than that.

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