They say that on average we spend 90,000 hours working in our lifetime. We spend more time with our co-workers than with our partners, our kids and ourselves. Other than the typical work personality assessments that help us capitalize on each others’ skills at work, we don’t really take the time to work on our relationships with co-workers. To me, making friends at work is like making friends in kindergarten. We connect on the simplest levels: when we find out a co-worker also has a kid, lives in the same town as us, also finds the guy in accounting cute… really small things and suddenly they are our lunch buddy and will maybe grab a drink after work and we’re insta-friends.
The challenge is trying to build great relationships with the people we spend our days with while being as professional as can be. Where do we draw the line so we are not blurring lines and having inappropriate work relationships? But at the same time, not being so super awkward and still being liked at work? I’ve been reading a whole lot and watching TEDtalks about work relationship dynamics and how to excel at them.
Here are some tips that I’m hoping will help me and you at figuring out to create balanced working relationships:
Figure out if you’re a giver or a taker at work. If you’re a giver, be careful because people may gravitate to you in order to benefit/take advantage of your generosity. Be sure to know the difference between the co-worker who is looking for you to pick up their slack and the co-worker that is genuinely interested in your company. If you’re a taker, you’re probably also a little bit of an ass at work. Be sure that people don’t gravitate to you because they’re using you to suck up/work their way up — it’s probably not genuine.
Build relationships that are mutually beneficial. Just like in any relationship, be sure to have an equal balance in your relationship. Take turns venting, take turns picking lunch spots, etc.
Be sure that you truly want what’s best for your co-worker in the workplace. For instance, if you compete with one another in any aspect, it’s probably not healthy. If you secretly wish they would fail on a project, it’s probably not healthy. Know what I mean? Be sure you both truly want the best for each other!
You’ll need to respect each others’ work differences. For instance, if your co-worker gets their work done much slower than you, there’s no room for judgement here. Or on the contrary, they finish their work with a lot more speed, there’s no room for envy. Respect that you are different and work differently and have different strengths, deficits and different levels of experience at work.
Don’t ever purposely exclude a co-worker. Sure, you may have your work people but don’t be Regina George and tell people they can’t sit with you. You don’t need to be bestie with everyone but why burn bridges when you literally spend so many hours with someone? Always operate with inclusion.
Invest time in helping your co-workers grow. If you have a tip for helping them succeed, make it known (if they are open to it). Always be open to helping, within reason of course so you aren’t falling behind on your own work. But when you are helping others succeed, what a great contribution!
Always give thanks where it’s due. I always keep a stack of thank you cards to be able to address one when necessary. If someone takes the time to train you on something, or goes out of their way to help you and be there for you, send them a note. You’re not sending them a bouquet of roses here. But a handwritten note is always better than a generic email. Showing them appreciation will really set you apart and will strengthen your relationship. They will feel valued and their time respected.
Know when interactions become too much. If you know your co-worker only likes to discuss non-work related things during their lunch, keep it that way. Don’t force interaction in order to become closer when they are not equally, if not more engaged. Always wait for queues from someone else on getting closer. If those queues aren’t there, keep it light (hobbies, weekend activities, etc).
Luckily we live in a city that excels in having excellent workplace environments and team building but it will forever be a challenge! How do you keep things straight at work?! I’m seriously interested in hearing how others do it!