The business world is fantastic. It's also challenging. Over the course of your career, you'll face ethical, cultural, political, and personal dilemmas in the workplace. You'll work with difficult people. You'll find yourself in compromising situations. You'll have to balance who you are as an individual with what your employer asks of you.
Can you stay true to who you are without sacrificing your success? Absolutely YES.
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Relationships At Work

Do You Work Alone?
If Not, Read This

Relationships are key to your success ... 
AND satisfaction at work. 
Are yours helping or hurting you?

In this week's "Coach on Call" question, Ryan asks:
"I'm doing well at work and getting positive feedback from my boss. I get along with everyone, but my co-workers seem to have better relationships than I do. They know more people and help each other. Seems like it could hurt me later if I don't get better at networking. I'm kinda outside looking in. I'm not shy, I just haven't done it. How can I do better without forcing it?"

Great question, Ryan. It's so easy to get caught up in a cycle where you go to work, dig in, do your job, and go home at the end of a long day - without taking the time to really connect with others. 

I've been guilty of this myself at different times in my career. I hear you about not wanting to force fake relationships at work. That doesn't feel like right either.

Good news. With just a few shifts in your approach, you can easily develop positive and productive relationships at work. Not only will you be more successful; research shows that you'll also be more satisfied. 

Check out this encore of my "Top 10 List" for cultivating solid relationships at work. I hope some of these ideas will work for you and others. Keep me posted!

Cultivating Relationships: 
Top 10 List

Developing relationships, and keeping them healthy over time, takes work. For some, it comes naturally. For others, it's more challenging. Here's my best top ten list for how to cultivate relationships in the workplace. This is based on my experience (both good and bad) and that of many others who have led by example (also good and bad) over the years.

1. Deliver results, first and foremost.

Colleagues in any work environment want to be associated with people who deliver results. Before you try to build relationships with others, focus on yourself. Know what's expected of you and deliver on those expectations. Be worth the time others will spend getting to know you. You may win fans with humor, entertaining misbehavior, or other antics. Meaningful relationships, that matter and benefit you, generally won't materialize unless you perform. It all starts with being someone that matters.

2. Establish rapport with others.

Get to know your colleagues beyond a superficial level. Watch, listen, and learn. Understand their background, role, perspective, personality, and temperament. Find common points of interest to establish rapport. Identify points of potential conflict, so you can avoid or manage them. Take the time to get to know your colleagues better. Your interactions will be much more effective.

3. Earn and give respect.

To build positive relationships in the workplace, you need to earn the respect of others. Unfortunately, consistency counts, so you have to earn it over and over again. People pay attention to what you achieve, but also how you achieve it. Deserve and earn respect. Equally important is showing respect for others. If you struggle to respect a colleague, don't broadcast your perspective verbally or non-verbally. Avoid being openly disrespectful in any way. It reflects poorly on you, even if others agree your opinion is warranted. This is a hard lesson to learn, but critical to cultivating relationships.

4. Be a valuable resource.

Be someone who is willing to help your colleagues when you can. Offer assistance when you see that someone needs it. Be responsive when asked for help. If you can't assist in exactly the way you're being asked, offer to help in another way. Deliver on your commitments, so others know they can count on you. This makes you an important relationship for others to maintain. It also allows you to reach out for help when you need it, leveraging your relationships in return.

5. Be proactive and protective.

Show colleagues that you care enough to have their back. Reach out to share information that will benefit them. Help them avoid harm, by letting them know when you sense trouble is headed their way. Let them speak freely with you and protect their confidences. Give them feedback when you have observations that may be of value. You can't always protect a team member, peer, or boss from negative business impacts. Do it when you can.

6. Show appreciation for support.

When others in the organization help you, let them know you appreciate it. It's not always easy for others to support you. Your team may work hard to achieve what you ask. A colleague may go beyond the call to assist you. Another co-worker may defend you, when you're not there to defend yourself. Show your appreciation with a simple thank you or more as may be warranted. Let them know you'd do the same for them. Even small acts of kindness deserve recognition. This builds good will with your colleagues.

7. Clarify before you judge.

Miscommunication is rampant in every business environment. People run fast and hard at their own responsibilities and often collide with others in the process. To maintain positive and productive working relationships, try to clarify miscommunications before you jump to conclusions. Most of the time, clarity helps diffuse emotional responses as you sort out the facts of the matter. Sometimes clarity makes it worse, but give others the benefit of the doubt before you act or speak out of turn.

8. Be tolerant of stress reactions.

It's said that stress brings out the worst in people. That may or may not be true. It certainly prevents people from moderating themselves the way they might under normal circumstances. In any case, understand that sometimes people respond in surprising ways when under stress. Try to be tolerant, take a breath, and accept that it's "stress" talking when things get heated. Acknowledge it as such with the other person as needed, or simply give it time. In any case, don't take it personally. Work through the issue productively once the stressful situation settles down.

9. Apologize when warranted.

Sometimes you mess up. You say something or do something that wasn't your best option. When you make a mistake, simply apologize. The bigger and more visible the issue, the harder this becomes. Trying to hide from it doesn't work. Mistakes nearly always find their way home. Own up to it, explain it as needed, share your plan to fix it, and apologize. Some people believe admitting a mistake shows weakness. To the contrary. It shows confidence and accountability. (Just be sure to make a different mistake the next time. Repeats don't generally go over well.)

10. Don't be a threat.

Sometimes when you're assertive, you can be perceived as aggressive. Most of the time, the nuance between the two is slight and you won't even know that you tipped the line. The stronger your personality, the more likely you'll encounter this challenge. This is particularly true when you feel strongly about a topic being discussed. Be clear on your motives in speaking up, be conscious of your approach and tone, and avoid doing damage to others in public. Go into potential conflicts focused on being a positive and productive influence. You're less likely to be perceived as a threat.

Bottom Line

You may be surprised how small changes in your approach can deliver big results in the quality of your workplace relationships. If it increases your likelihood of success, and improves your job satisfaction, what do you have to lose? 

Success AND satisfaction at work: sounds like a great combination to avoid eating your soul for breakfast.

Thanks for your question, Ryan. If any of you reading want me to answer a question or address a situation for you, just drop me a note at or leave a comment below. Happy to help.

More soon,