Workplace relationships are often different from relationships outside of the office. Work cultures vary, but in many organizations, you might act more reserved than you would in an informal setting or choose your behavior in light of the other’s positional power. Since your relationships at work can have a strong impact on your ability to collaborate and to succeed in your career, it’s helpful to be conscious about how you go about building those relationships. Much of your success may depend on your ability to influence others, stimulating them to take actions that can be helpful to you, to them, and to the organization. Moving others to take action is easier when you have a meaningful working relationship. We don’t tend to be influenced by people whom we don’t respect and trust or whom we don’t think trust and respect us. If consciously building influence relationships isn’t part of your inner toolkit, here are a few ideas that can help.
1) Use active listening skills not just to be a helpful friend, but also to reinforce ideas and action steps that you see as productive and want to encourage. Or to learn more about an issue the other is experiencing. When someone expresses an idea or a concern that’s important and relevant, show them that you’ve heard them by paraphrasing in a neutral, nonjudgmental way. Just saying, “I hear you,” doesn’t really demonstrate interest or support.
2) If you know a colleague is struggling with something, ask if he or she would like to discuss it. Don’t offer suggestions unless you’re invited to or the other agrees to hear your ideas, but be available.
3) Bond over the right things. Many times people bond over gossip, negative feelings, or other people they dislike. Try to avoid conversations like these. You want to be the person people talk to, enjoy, laugh with, or get advice from, not the person that fuels the fire.
4) Disclose. Sometimes you can increase trust in your relationship by disclosing something about yourself. This doesn’t have to be something personal or something that could get you in trouble. Simply offer information about yourself that’s relevant to the current situation and that costs you something to acknowledge. For example, if the meeting you were in didn’t go as planned, you could acknowledge to your colleague that you were hoping for a more productive outcome.
5) Ask for your colleagues’ help and ideas. Influence is a two-way process. When you ask someone to weigh in on something you’re noodling on, you’re communicating respect for his or her opinion this can be especially useful with a person whom you find difficult to influence. It can be the beginning of a more collaborative relationship.
6) Follow through! Building your personal credibility is important in relationships. When you promise or commit to something, follow through. And if you know you can’t follow through, don’t commit to it.
We hope these tips help you in building great working relationships. For more information about relationships and influence, join our virtual Influence Celebration!