7 Tips to Improve Work Relationships

Research indicates that positive work relationships can boost employee satisfaction by 50 percent. Workers with a good work friend are also seven times more engaged than employees who don’t have these work relationships. Most of us end up spending more of our waking hours at work than we do in our own homes. Consequently, drama or isolation in the workplace can have personal implications that extend far beyond engagement, productivity, work-life satisfaction, and employee retention.

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Here are some easy ways to develop these positive work relationships, while reducing drama and isolation.

7 Tips to Improve Work Relationships

1. Confront Conflict Kindly

Underlying a great deal of workplace drama are the conversations we’re not having, because we don’t want to “stir the pot” by addressing the proverbial elephant in the room. Consequently, we avoid talking about significant issues like inappropriate humor, boundaries, odd behaviors, body odor and poor performance.

People can’t adjust these behaviors if they are not aware of them. By confronting these issues sooner rather than later, you can help the perpetrator understand how these problems are affecting others in the office and make appropriate changes to their behavior. Make sure that your intention is in the right place when addressing these issues. The right intention can make discussing uncomfortable topics a lot easier.

2. Take Responsibility for Your Own Well-Being

One of the biggest missteps we make when it comes to our emotional well-being is believing that someone else’s actions are to blame for our feelings. However, at the end of the day, we have very little control over the behavior of others. But we can control our reactions to that behavior. If someone at work is overtly causing internal conflict, have an open and honest dialogue about how this person’s actions make you feel with the intention of improving the relationship rather than attacking from a place of hurt or resentment. This is being responsive rather than reactive.

3. Set and Respect Boundaries

Do you know anyone who doesn’t seem to quite grasp the concept of boundaries? These people can continuously disrupt your workday with issues that have little to nothing to do with you and weigh you down with negativity.  Boundaries can be physical or emotional, and others have no way of knowing where yours are if you don’t communicate your limits with them. There are three important steps to setting boundaries.

First, you need to define the problem in concrete terms. For example, a coworker keeps interrupting you when you are on the phone.

Second, figure out what exactly you want the coworker to cease or start doing. In this case, it could be having the coworker set appointments for discussions.

Third, figure out what action you can take if your coworker doesn’t abide by this boundary. This could be closing and locking your office door. Keep in mind that having boundaries implies a certain measure of control. You can’t entirely control your coworkers’ actions, but you always have choices in how you respond.

4. Vent Away from the Office

Everyone needs to let off a little steam every once and a while. However, work is not the place to do it. Take a walk. Talk to yourself or a friend outside or in the car. Or just wait until you get home. Just don’t vent at work. Workplace confrontations coming from a place of agitation are rarely productive or end well.

5. Show Gratitude

Make gratitude a conscious daily practice. Even when being reprimanded or receiving criticism, maintain a positive attitude and show appreciation for the correction. When you maintain an even temperament and practice mindfulness, it’s easier to deal with difficult situations. Furthermore, your appreciative and positive presence may spread throughout your workplace, making it a more pleasant environment for everyone.

6. Allow People to Grow from Mistakes

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Sometimes people need to solve their own issues and problems in order to grow. As a leader, when you are continually stepping in to play interference in the face of issues, you are encouraging dysfunction by allowing others to always rely on you to solve their problems.

Carefully evaluate your own enabling behaviors and patterns. If you have an employee who continues to underperform after being “told a thousand times,” then it means you’ve allowed this behavior that many times.  Do you find yourself regularly accepting poor excuses? If so, set your intention and have an honest conversation about performance issues. Clearly communicate the consequences of not implementing the required changes. Unfortunately, you must allow people to face consequences if they are going to grow and understand the concept of cause and effect in the workplace.

7. Practice Empathy

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Genuine empathy can be difficult. However, it’s essential if you want to experience a real change in your work relationships. Try to remember that you don’t know everything a person is going through, so when it feels like someone is attacking you, it may have very little to do with you. Try not to take it personally and show understanding for their individual struggles.

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