Building positive work relationships

It’s not to say that you need to be completely extroverted in all of your encounters at work. But, building positive work relationships is important for a variety of reasons including success in your career and creating a more pleasant work experience for you and for your colleagues.

As humans, we are innately social beings – we crave friendship and positive relationships. Given we typically spend about 30-40 hours a week working, it makes intuitive sense that we should want to promote positive social interactions in our work environment, and not just in our personal lives.

Why do we need good relationships?

Having and maintaining good work relationships means that you don’t need to spend that extra time and energy trying to overcome the problems associated with negative ones. If you struggle to ask a colleague a question or if there are awkward moments in the lift, it can interrupt your workflow or even cause angst. On the other hand, positive relationships enable you to focus on opportunities, ensuring you can work efficiently.

Good work relationships in your professional circle is also important. Ensuring you develop and maintain positive working relationships with customers, suppliers and key stakeholders will not only make conversations, transactions, projects etc. easier, but they are also essential to succeed in your career.

What characteristics define a good work relationship?

Although there are various traits and qualities that make up good relationships, let alone different personal preferences and perceptions, there are a few that are unquestionable. I’m sure you are familiar with some of the following:

  • Trust - the core of every relationship. If you can’t trust the other person, then the foundations of the relationship will crumble. Trust creates a strong bond between you and the other person, it helps you communicate with one another and it allows you to be open and honest in your thoughts and behaviours. It means you don’t need to need to waste time, worried about what they may be thinking or doing. Of course, you aren’t going to trust everyone right off the bat, but consciously trying to work towards a trusting relationship will only do you favours.
  • Communicate clearly - This may seem like an intuitive point, but many people fail to communicate effectively – whether that be they don’t express themselves clearly or they don’t listen effectively to their colleagues. Strong communication ensures everyone is on the same page, comfortable and satisfied.
  • Be mindful - Accepting responsibility for your own words, actions and work is important. No one wants secondary blame or annoyance shifted over to them. Additionally, if you don’t accept the outcomes of your actions, your colleagues may find it difficult to trust you or to value your contributions fairly.
  • Welcome other people’s perspectives - You are not always going to see eye-to-eye with everyone, including those who you may have a close relationship with. But it is important to be open to considering, compromising and accepting different points of view. On the one hand, you could open your eyes to a new (and even better) idea and/or perspective. But on the other hand, it will strengthen your relationship with your colleague, and exemplify your team spirit skills.
  • Be considerate - Keep all relevant colleagues in the loop about certain projects and updates, don’t leave anyone in the dark who shouldn’t be. Don’t ‘forget’ to CC someone in an email who should really be seeing the content.
  • Be true - Above all, you should always try to be professional. But also be friendly and patient. And stay true to your commitments and promises.

Not only is it good for our wellbeing to be a part of a positive relationship, but having good relationships in the workforce can also increase your productivity and performance. A workplace filled with positive work relationships creates a positive work culture overall, it makes it a place where people want to be working in. 


This blog first appeared on the Centre for Corporate Health website. Debra Brodowski is the author.


Image sourced from Flickr cc: Michael Coghlan

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