The writer with part of his team at work.

I spent quite a bit of time this week explaining to some participants in a training programme about how important it was for them to develop strong relationships with their work colleagues.

If you think about it, as a full-time employee, you probably spend more of your waking hours with co-workers than you do with your spouse and family. Getting on well with your colleagues just makes sense, doesn’t it?

In fact, a 2016 report entitled Relationships in the 21st Century by the Mental Health Foundation of the United Kingdom states that our relationships at work have an impact on job satisfaction; learning and using our skills; morale; absenteeism; and even in our general quality of life.

If you respect and understand your co-workers, you will value their opinions, and take the time to consider them. That obviously makes for a more productive and positive workplace.

I certainly enjoy the process of working, when I like the people I work with. And, the biggest energy drainer that I have ever faced in my career is when I have to deal with a negative relationship with a client, colleague or an employee.

Some years ago, the Gallup Organisation studied more than 80,000 managers to understand what they did to create quality workplaces. The study showed that people, who have a “good friend” at work, are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs.

Good working relationships give you real benefits by helping you focus on opportunities.

Furthermore, you need to be deft at forging good relationships for your career growth too. The reality is that if your boss doesn't have a solid relation with you, it's unlikely that they will ever consider you for a promotion.

In my businesses, I know that the value of relationship building is very important. I have only attained some measure of success because of the strong working relationships I have with my team, and within my professional circle.

My engagement levels with my customers, suppliers, and key stakeholders are all essentially grounded on my ability to maintain decent relationships with them.

In the training programme I mentioned above, I shared these three traits that I believe you must cultivate if you want to build healthy working relationships at work.

Be authentic.

This is the foundation of every good relationship. I remind myself and the people around me to be authentic, all the time. You have to be genuine and sincere in your approach, as well as with your fears and insecurities. This helps build trust.

When I purchased my restaurant in Taman Tun Dr Ismail a few years ago, I realised that the team that the former owner left behind was quite competent, yet they were hardly meeting their potential.

As I started working with them, I found out that the previous bosses didn't trust them an inch. They were monitored in the most over bearing manner, micro-managed, and overall, there was a trust deficiency.

I had to work sort this out. The first thing I had to do was to learn to trust the people that I had inherited. When I started doing this, it formed a powerful bond that helped everyone work much better as a team.

As employees, if you trust the people you work with, you can be open and honest with your thoughts, and actions. And most importantly, you don't have to waste energy on "watching your back."

Learn to have mutual respect

Many employees who complain about a negative workplace environment mention that they don’t feel appreciated or valued for the work they do. To ensure that your colleagues or even your employees are motivated to continue giving their best efforts, reward those who do well at work.

When someone goes above and beyond the call of duty, make sure that they are appreciated by providing them positive feedback. And if you are in position to offer tangible rewards to them, don’t hesitate.

When you respect the people that you work with, you will value their input and ideas, and they in turn will value yours.

Communicate openly

Proper communication increases connectivity. We communicate all day, every day with the people we work with. And, the better and more effectively you communicate with those around you, the richer your relationships will be.

I have a simple strategy that helps me with communicating properly.

First be clear in your interactions. Understand what you want to communicate, before even approaching anyone. Most communication issues happen when people don’t get what you actually want.

Next, be consistent in your communication modalities. People around you need to be familiar with your communication style. This reduces confusion.

Finally, always be courteous, as a rule. People will upset you, so learn to catch yourself. For strong relationships to be forged, you must remember that people only care about what you have to say, when how you say it, doesn't annoy them.

Be invested in building strong relationships with the people you work with. It only adds to your value.

Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times