How to Build Good Working Relationships (Plus Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 1 December 2022 | Published 1 November 2021

Updated 1 December 2022

Published 1 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Building strong relationships in the workplace is essential to increasing your personal fulfilment. Developing professional connections can lead to greater work satisfaction and can also create great future opportunities for you in your career. In this article, we outline how to build good working relationships, explain what this means and teach you how to discuss this subject during interviews.

Related: Interview Question: 'Describe Your Working Relationship With Coworkers'

How to build good working relationships

Learning how to build good working relationships can require time, effort and patience. This is an important guideline to follow when you're working on your professional relationships:

1. Build trust

Trust is an important aspect of any relationship. Developing it allows you to develop and maintain the connections you create at work. You can build trust by having a reliable nature. This means consistently meeting your deadlines and carrying out your responsibilities on time. It also involves being honest. For example, if you know you won't be able to finish a project before the deadline, communicate this immediately and give your reasons.

2. Show respect

Another important quality is respect. Showing respect towards your colleagues is vital to establishing your relationships with them. It involves being courteous to everyone in the workplace, regardless of their position or title. It also involves giving your coworkers the credit and praise they deserve for their work. Showing others you value them helps create a positive and supportive atmosphere where strong relations can flourish.

Related: How to Praise Someone Professionally (36 Ways You Can Do It)

3. Practise self-awareness

Practising self-awareness is a helpful tool you can use when developing connections with others. This concerns an awareness of your own characteristics, personality and feelings. Using this tool can improve your confidence and grow knowledge of your own triggers and behaviour. Being open and vulnerable about your own strengths and flaws can allow you to deepen your connection with others in your place of work.

4. Be inclusive

When building relationships, it's also necessary to be inclusive. This means avoiding cliques by refraining from only socialising with one group of people. Being inclusive prevents you from accidentally alienating anyone and it ensures that you're welcome and wanted in different social situations.

Furthermore, avoiding gossip can produce positive results. Make sure to only speak positively about your colleagues. If you have an issue with one of them, try instead to have an open and polite conversation with them. You may also consider asking your superior or someone from Human Resources to act as a mediator.

Related: Colleague vs. Coworker (Plus Definitions And Examples)

5. Have open communication

To avoid interpersonal conflicts, maintain honest and professional communication with your colleagues. Show interest in people's opinions and ask them further questions to better understand their point of view. Open communication also involves actively listening when someone is speaking. Remember to watch out for nonverbal communication signs, such as body language, when interacting with others.

Related: 15 Ways on How to Communicate Effectively at the Workplace

What is a working relationship?

Work relationships are the connections you create with the people at your workplace. This includes your colleagues, coworkers and managers. The professional connections you form differ from your personal relationships. They have a more formal nature and exist to ensure effective teamwork and efficiency. Usually, every job requires some type of interaction. Therefore, the ability to build good relationships at work is a valuable skill for you to have.

Why are strong relationships at work important?

Building good relationships with colleagues in the workplace is important for several reasons. Getting along with your coworkers improves your own personal work experience and can lower your stress levels. It leaves you more space to focus on developing yourself professionally when you avoid interpersonal challenges at the office.

By encouraging an atmosphere of clear communication and respect, you help contribute to the overall productivity and morale of your workplace. This is especially important for promoting successful teamwork, because of the benefits of effective working relationships in developing and maintaining the team.

What are the four types of working relationships?

To gain a better understanding of the different professional relationships you can cultivate, here's an overview of the four different working relationships:

1. Targeted

This is the relationship you have with other professionals in the industry who you don't know personally. You might connect with them online or exchange business cards at a conference. Strengthening these relationships can help you build and maintain your network. These targeted relationships are important because if you meet the right people, they can lead to future career opportunities for you.

2. Tentative

Tentative relationships are those that are relatively new. It may be with someone you have only spoken briefly to. While you don't yet know them on a deeper level, you know them enough to ask them for small favours or requests. For example, you might ask them to collaborate with you on a project.

3. Transactional

Transactional interactions are less personal and more focused on what the two parties can do for each other in the short-term. This relationship exists between people that regularly work together. It's built on trust because the parties regularly treat each other with respect and are fair in their dealings with each other. You can typically find this type of interaction existing in your relations with customers or suppliers. You can witness this in managers when they're aiming to reach certain business objectives.

4. Trusted

These relationships are the strongest type you can build at work. You can form them with close coworkers and mentors. They involve trust and respect that you establish together over a consistent period. Although this relationship takes the longest to form, it can also create great opportunities and have long-lasting benefits.

Interview question with sample answer

It's typical for employers to ask you questions regarding your professional relationships. They usually do so because they want to learn more about your various skills, such as your ability to teamwork and communicate. When answering interview questions, remember to use the STAR interview technique. Describe a previous situation for context, explain a task that represents your role, recount the action you took and the result of your actions. A typical question an employer might ask you is 'How do you maintain good working relationships with your colleagues?' This is a sample answer you might give in reply:

'My past working relationships were mainly positive because I focused on respect and collaboration. For example, whenever someone was new at the company, I would use this as an opportunity to help improve the overall atmosphere of my workplace. On my new colleague's first day, I would go over and introduce myself and do my best to make them feel welcome.

Creating a good first impression you consistently maintain through reliable, trustworthy behaviour is key. In my experience, making a conscious effort with one's colleagues always makes the office a better place to work.'

Read more: How to Use the STAR Interview Technique

What skills can improve your efforts?

Developing certain skills can really help you when seeking to establish or maintain positive relationships in the workplace. These include:

  • Social skills: These allow us to interact with others in an effective and positive way. They can include characteristics such as dependability, leadership, compassion and patience.

  • Communication skills: We can use communication skills to talk to our colleagues and navigate the social aspects of our office. This includes using both verbal and nonverbal communication. For example, notice a person's body language when you converse with them for clues on how to act.

  • Teamwork skills: The ability to work in a team is essential when you're forming relationships. It allows you to collaborate with others during important work events, such as during projects or meetings.

  • Conflict management: Understanding how to diffuse tense situations can help you establish a solid foundation for your professional relationships. This includes knowing how to steer a conversation away from gossip and how to confront a coworker about your problems in a manner that's both respectful and effective.

Related: 10 Important Social Skills to Have (Definition and Examples)

Tips for building work relationships

Establishing strong relationships can take time, but you can follow these tips to help you along the way:

  • Be positive. Having a positive attitude can make your colleagues feel more comfortable around you.

  • Adapt to the work environment. Each company has its own unofficial guidelines about what interactions they consider appropriate. It's important to remember this when you're forming bonds since some work environments are much more formal than others.

  • Show empathy. Showing empathy means understanding a coworker's situation. If they're talking about feeling stressed about a project, show them that you care by actively listening.

  • Offer your help. A great way to establish positive relationships is by offering your help. If a coworker is feeling stressed about a project, consider offering them assistance. Helping them with their burdens can show that you're someone trustworthy and it can really help your professional friendship flourish.

  • Make time for socialising. Building relationships requires patience. By scheduling time to develop these connections, you can easily fulfil your responsibilities and find the time to socialise. Consider scheduling time during lunch or at the end of the workday.

Related: How to Build Relationships at Work in 7 Easy Steps

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