It can be tricky to navigate interpersonal relationships at work, without question -- just as it can be tricky to navigate any interpersonal relationship.
This article is not meant to be about romantic relationships or anything remotely similar to that -- most would probably argue you shouldn't pursue that type of relationship in the workplace anyway -- but rather, it's about developing interpersonal skills, interpersonal communication, social interaction at work, and the general development of interpersonal relations.
In other words: you spend a lot of time at work. You might as well have friends and those you can rely on there, right? But a workplace is insanely task-focused often, and there's so much to get done. How do you cultivate an interpersonal relationship in your workplace, then?
You need to start by realizing the importance of the friendship relationship at work. A statistic that might surprise you: If you have a friend whom you see on most days, the increase to your happiness is like earning $100,000 more each year. On the other hand, when you break a critical social tie, it’s like suffering a $90,000 per year decrease in your income.
There's also this on interpersonal relationship building:
"Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests organizations most successful at integrating new employees use a relational approach, helping new hires to rapidly establish social interaction with coworkers. The approach, while preferable, still relies on outdated best practice."
Interpersonal relationships in the workplace can be tricky. But ... there's a path here.
Some employees -- especially those who manage others -- get skittish about being friends with coworkers, because they want to be able to retain that managerial edge aspect and discipline when needed. While that makes sense and comforts the human brain at some level, in reality an organization is a mix of people theoretically headed towards the same goal. There needs to be a strong quality of relationship there.
Think about what you expect from a friend outside of the workplace, or a spouse/significant other. Obviously there are major human behavior baselines, such as "trust." But beyond that, you want to make sure that an interpersonal relationship in the workplace is fostered by:
These are the baselines of a successful interpersonal relationship. If you're not doing these things with coworkers, you can begin to build trust and rapport with each other. But if these baselines aren't being met, good luck with the development of anything remotely resembling a workplace friendship.
In addition to the above baselines, some of the crucial interpersonal skills for the workplace include:
Work feels to many like it needs to be about hustle and grinding and winning and being seen as successful, so it can feel random to talk about "gratitude" in a work sense, but gratitude is very important to the development of each interpersonal relationship that makes up the ecosystem of the workplace.
Here we’ve got a study from the University of Kentucky about how gratitude reduces aggression. There’s also been 51 different studies showing that gratitude in a workplace can be a bigger, better motivator than compensation and bonuses. Much of this is cited in this article from Fast Company on the power of gratitude.
Bottom line: gratitude, another major facet of interpersonal skills, doesn't always feel like a "work concept," but it is. So walk over to a teammate, or message them on a platform, and say how grateful you are for something they recently did, or how they helped you with a project or a deadline. This is a great example of both an interpersonal communication skill and a positive interpersonal relationship being built, and the presence of both of those drive work forward better than most factors can.
“The majority of what looks like an interpersonal conflict is actually communication breakdown. Communication, if not attended to with care, is as likely to fail as to succeed. And when it does, a listener’s incorrect inferences about a speaker’s intent often create interpersonal conflict.”
Indeed. Communication is often poor in organizations, but there are ways to fix it. One approach involves a three-question sequence:
Here's how it looks in execution:
What: “You missed a deadline.”
So What: “This is going to make a few other people scramble for this meeting tomorrow.”
Now What: “I’d like you to help these people and also, in the future, attempt not to miss deadlines.”
That's a more effective approach to communication in the workplace.
There's another idea about workplace communication, put forward by Northwestern University, where you focus on six key concepts to get a point across and build interpersonal relations:
Makes sense -- we live in a very data-driven time, humans appreciate logic, equations help contextualize what we're communicating about, we're all visual creatures hence pictures, the brain loves stories hence that one, and participation helps build a culture.
If you can't communicate well at work, you won't be able to build interpersonal relationships at work. Hence, these concepts and ideas matter a good deal.
Four of our use cases resonate the most here:
We also have a wellbeing program, driven by our AI-powered Coach Marlee, that can help leaders and employees alike develop self-esteem and self-efficacy, both of which help in the development of work relationships, communication skills (confidence), generalized personal relationships, and more.
Perhaps above all, we have a program designed to increase EQ. It's two sessions per week, 5-15 minutes per session, and lasts eight total weeks on a flexible schedule. Ultimately it drives self-awareness and intentionality around EQ, which only benefits your communication skills and interpersonal relationships in the workplace.
Remember: work is a confusing place, and there can be politics and feuds and questions and confusion and unclear priorities, but if you root yourself in building strong interpersonal relationships, you will have a better experience there, feel more confident day-to-day, communicate better, and generally enjoy the experience of the workplace -- remote or in-person -- more. We all get by with a little help from our friends. Work is no different.
Our programs were designed by world-renowned coaches. Sessions only take 5-15 minutes. Get started for free with your personalized program now.
Our expert coaches have designed hyper-effective programs that will help
you build interpersonal relationships at work.
Coach Marlee (your amazing AI-powered personal coach) will analyse your unique traits and goals to let you know which program to start with (and if there are any you should skip)!
Your recommended programs include:
Inspire yourself and others with grand visions and goals. A focus on goals is especially helpful for creating new friendships, communicating your ideas, maintaining energy and motivation over time, and for increasing connection and wellbeing at work and in life.
Strengthen your emotional intelligence (EQ) to connect with and create new friendships. Awareness of your and others’ emotions is at the heart of ‘reading people’, impactful communication, authentic relating and building meaningful friendships.
Accelerate your opportunities for new friendship by trusting the experience and genius within others. During this eight week program Coach Marlee will help you to develop a genuine appreciation for experimentation and a willingness to empower the opinions, feedback and insights of others in your life.
Develop ‘step back’ mastery for increased self-awareness and mindfulness. Reflection and patience are core to personal insight, consolidating learning and gaining multiple perspectives - all keys to building authentic new friendships.
Comfort to initiate is at the heart expanding your circle of friends. Close the gap between your ideas and take action on them. Strengthen your comfort and motivation to initiate conversations and opportunities for fun, adventure and memorable positive experiences with new friends.
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