I learned the importance of building interpersonal relationships at work very early on in my career.
As a young prosecutor at the state’s attorney’s office, we conducted jury trials in pairs. The attorneys trying the case were designated the 1st chair and 2nd chair. The 1st chair had the most knowledge regarding the facts of the case and worked up the case from beginning to end, “soup to nuts.”
The 2nd chair’s responsibility was to assist, observe and take notes. Typically, the 1st chair conducted the most important facets of the trial, including opening and closing statements and cross-examination of the defendant. The 2nd chair typically conducted direct examination of several witnesses and a portion of jury selection.
It was on-the-job training at its finest, because it instantly fostered a mentor/protégé relationship amongst colleagues and provided valuable opportunities for new attorneys to learn the ropes from veteran attorneys.
Even without a similar built-in framework, you can experience drastic improvements in the quality of your own work and level of job satisfaction—if you’re intentional about building and maximizing your interpersonal relationships at work.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average employed person between the ages of 25 to 54 spends nearly nine hours a day at work.
Use that time to maximize the benefits of your workplace relationships by aiming to connect, assess, respond and encourage.
Here are some effective ways to start:
Connect on both personal and professional levels
Approach every encounter with a co-worker as an opportunity to connect. Express genuine interest in your colleague’s work projects and personal interests. And, perhaps most importantly, be engaging and interesting. Swapping stories about commutes or college memories are welcome moments of levity.
Job satisfaction is tied directly to how you feel about your immediate coworkers. If the atmosphere is friendly, inviting and engaging, then you have set the stage for a healthy and thriving workplace.
Assess the skills and abilities of your peers
Consider each of your co-workers as a peer, mentor or protégé—in other words, a partner in a mutually beneficial relationship. Take into consideration their relative position, tenure and skills and treat them accordingly. This is not to suggest that you submit to some corporate hierarchy. On the other hand, if you are taking the time and energy to connect with your co-workers, then you will be developing a gradual, but progressive understanding of how they developed the skills that have led to workplace successes.
By coupling the organic development of your workplace relationships with an intentional focus on learning from co-workers’ experiences, you will foster the progress of your own skills and abilities.
Respond by developing and honing your own skills
Amongst peers, cultivate healthy and robust relationships built on foundations of mutual respect, collaboration and trust. Managers are also a valuable resource. Actively pursue opportunities to learn from their experiences. With subordinates, become the mentor that you always wish you had. Go the extra mile and take advantage of teaching moments to train and equip.
Support the growth of a productive workplace
Be positive and energetic. Remind each other, whether in word or deed, that you’re pulling on the same end of the rope. Do what it takes to motivate others to push the limits of their abilities.
Individual success, as it turns out, is actually tied to communal relationships. If you want to reach your goals of greater productivity, impact and success, be focused and intentional about building and maximizing your interpersonal relationships at work.