David O'Connor - Director of Learning and Innovation at Common Purpose / 11 October 2023

Making Relationships at Work ‘Work’ - The Recipe For Success

Ingredients, method, delicious result.


Do you want your team (and yourself) to be happier, more engaged, and more productive? Start by building good working relationships.

Where positive, connected and uplifting relationships between team members can serve as a foundation on which an organisation can succeed, poor relationships can be the culprit in making us feel disconnected with the work we are doing. So, how can we go about building good working connections? 

It all starts with a recipe made of:

  • Trust (above all else)
  • Respect
  • Empathy
  • Time (more than just a pinch) and
  • A special sauce of give & take

If you feel comfortable doing so, try to make a habit of giving more than you take, and show others what you can offer and are willing to share. Additionally, try to make introductions that will ultimately help others connect with each other. It’s also important to know when it’s time to back away (if you are in doubt or if either solution might work) and when to push (if you really believe in your solution). And of course, always ask for feedback and listen to it. 

This makes up the start of our recipe, so how do we turn it into something delicious? Here are a few things to consider.

Make an effort

  1. Don’t spend every minute behind a screen - try to connect with people at a human level.
  2. Help others to ask for help if they need it, this is essential in building a positive team culture.
  3. Allow your default to be positive.
  4. Make time for everybody, not just senior stakeholders.
  5. Help people even if you haven’t been asked.
  6. Always be prepared for meetings and calls, and when you’re in them, don’t be afraid to give your opinion, and to support the opinions of others. Adopt a mindset whereby even if you think you have nothing to add, you do.

Keep it genuine

  1. Be generous with your praise of people, and mean it.
  2. Be sensitive to what is important to others, and what makes them tick.
  3. Don’t call people out in group settings. If deadlines look like they are going to be missed, or there is an issue that needs to be addressed, always approach this conversation gently.
  4. Being friendly at work doesn’t always translate to being friends in real life – and that’s okay.
  5. Set clear boundaries and let people know when you need time to focus.

Check your behaviour

  1. Treat others as you’d want to be treated.
  2. Be humble, generous, and respectful regardless of status of position.
  3. Before you demand things from others, make sure you are seen upholding your own commitments.

 Mind your manners

  1. Avoid gossip and office politics.
  2. Don’t talk about others behind their backs. Be open and direct foremost, and if you are uncomfortable speaking to someone directly for whatever reason, take the advice of someone you trust in the organization.
  3. Listen well, don’t interrupt and ask follow up questions.
  4. Remember to say thank you - a little gesture goes a long way. 

Sidestep misunderstandings

  1. Never say no to a request without examining why.
  2. Work out what type of communicator you are, and what style of communication you prefer, and respect the way your colleagues also see this.
  3. Create shared objectives, not just your own.
  4. If you find yourself in a moment of conflict, step away and take a breath. Then come back and talk privately to the person so it’s not left unresolved.
  5. Don’t make conflicts personal - more often than not, it’s about the issue, not the person.

A little pinch of each ingredient can go a long way. As well as a deep commitment to continually invest in relationships on all sides.

There is no doubt that building good working relationships can take hard work. It requires time, patience, and self-awareness. But putting in this work helps us feel more connected to each other, and keeps our satisfaction levels high. And this in turn creates healthy and constructive working spaces.



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