One of the most erroneous, unchallenged beliefs in the workplace is that “work is for work, not for making friendships.” There is a bevy of research declaring that those who have healthy relationships at work, not only enjoy their work more, but are happier overall and achieve more within their roles. In fact, most researchers claim that the number one predictor of a staff’s achievement is based on how they feel about one another.
So, how do we get to that point where we have healthy relationships at work? The quick answer is you must take responsibility for growing the relationships. By doing so, you position yourself as a person of influence and at the same time initiate a positive culture change. To invest in relationships at work:
- Focus on your coworkers’ strengths, not their shortcomings. How you view a person determines how you will treat them. Everyone at your workplace has both strengths and weaknesses but unfortunately, it is typically their weaknesses that seem to jump to the forefront of your radars. When you train your brain to focus primarily on a person’s strengths however, how you view the person will suddenly change. Wayne Dyer said it best: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Before reading further, pause and think of three people at work. Considering each person individually, write down the three traits that first come to your mind. Once you have these characteristics written down, review each one and notice if the traits are positive or negative. This is important because how you see them, determines how you will interact with them. To work on strengthening the relationship, the first three traits need to be positive. Train your brain to firstly focus on things you admire, respect or can applaud about them. This does not mean that you ignore or overlook dysfunction. It simply means you put your first energy towards noticing the strengths, not the shortcomings.
- Be intentional in offering sincere praise, recognition and encouragement. Deep within all humans is a primal need to be loved … to be cared for & accepted. We bring this need to work with us and if not met, the entire team suffers. Encouragement, recognition, inclusion, staff socials, team training, sharing values, rewarding exceptional behaviors and results, along with warm smiles, all validate and meet this primal need at work. If we think of sincere praise, validation, appreciation and acceptance as currencies, we can pay lavishly each day and fuel those around us for outstanding performance. Your influence will grow in proportion to your willingness to pay in these core currencies. In addition, when you focus on uplifting and encouraging those around you, a positive cultural shift is set in motion.
It is worth a reminder that most are fully aware of their shortcomings and failures. It’s their strengths that seldom get mentioned. Too many are burdened with reminders and consumed with thoughts of how they have disappointed, messed up, fallen short or underachieved. You have the potential to remove some of that restricting weight by pointing out another’s strength, validating or appreciating. Sadly, we often become conditioned to only offer feedback when someone underperforms. Don’t be too hasty to point out another’s weakness or shortcoming. They are likely very aware of it already. To empower them, instead of critiquing, highlight their achievements, value and worth. After all, one of life’s greatest sources of satisfaction is knowing you have positively impacted another.
There is validity behind the truism that “actions speak louder than words,” but lost in that isolated thought is powerful truth worth pondering. Words matter! Spoken words become the window through which others see into your soul. Relationship health is rooted in our words and the ongoing dialogue between two people. Words have the power to encourage, motivate and empower or they can cripple, emotionally scar and discourage. Think of a time when you felt most empowered, encouraged, strengthened or validated. Most likely it was through someone’s uplifting words. Likewise, some of your lowest, most discouraged moments were likely felt from the painful remarks of another or their absence of comforting conversation. Of course it is not just the words themselves that matter, but the spirit and integrity they are wrapped in as well. Whether words spoken are incongruent with behavior or aligned with action, either way they disclose the nature of the relationship. There is no getting around the reality that dialogue between people disclose either the health or the dysfunction of relationships. To change the winds of conversation is to alter the direction of the relationship
- Resist the inclination to compete and instead cooperate at every opportunity. Our individual success is directly linked to the success of our coworkers. One can never enjoy the bounties of teamwork until cooperation replaces competition. Often, we compete rather than cooperate because we fear that if we help another succeed, we will lose. It is as if we believe that success is a fixed sum and therefore if you get a piece of the success pie, there is less left for me. Success however is not a fixed sum. There’s an unlimited amount of success to go around and the good news is your goals can be achieved much more easily and faster when you dip into the collective energy, resources and intelligence of those around you. Getting others to assist you in achieving what you want from work is often the highest hurdle. This is where you must model the behavior you most want to see in others. Flex your leadership skills by taking initiative to be that example for cooperation. View it as social capital … an investment from which you will later reap exceptional rewards.
Being vulnerable enough to work with others for maximum, mutual success is what teamwork is all about. It does however require some trust. Since trust is essential to healthy relationships, and since healthy relationships are essential to success and even your own well being, building trust should be your number one priority in both your personal and professional lives. Trust is more than relationship currency; it is one of the most powerful motivators. When people feel trusted and trust others, the essence of teamwork can really ignite momentum. To work on trust is to be consistent in your behavior, never acting out of sync with your well-communicated values. It involves making things happen but also making sure the process towards your goals is humble, gentle and transparent. Making things happen and being transparent are important because it establishes credibility and without credibility, suspicion and mistrust take over. The third factor in establishing trust is to consistently show care and concern for others. Be ever mindful that every interaction is a moment of building or a moment of eroding trust. True success is never a solo act. When you fully grasp the truth that, because we are so intricately connected, if one person within our network of association or influence succeeds, we do as well, we will no longer compete with, but rather compliment others.
When you prioritize relationship building, you prioritize your own wellbeing and job satisfaction. Long before our extensive study and research on success, leadership and teamwork, industrialist and billionaire John D. Rockefeller noted, “I have long been profoundly convinced that in the very nature of things, employers and employees are partners, not enemies; that their interests are common, not opposed; that in the long run the success of each is dependent upon the success of the other.” When those around us are uncooperative, it becomes tempting to retaliate and adopt that same selfish style. Once in this gear however, your engine becomes out of tune, just like the others. You have not only mirrored the dysfunction but you are now contributing to the problem. The more prudent response would be to flip that leadership switch in your head and model the behavior those around you lack. In this case, you initiate a cultural shift, contribute to positive change and begin building strong, healthy relationships. If you really want to love your work, you must love those you do the work with.