Why would I want to establish healthy relationships in the workplace when I have my own friends and family?
Corporate relationships are very similar to our personal relationships. We don’t realise it but there is very little difference between work and personal relationships – the basic principles are the same.
Just as children mimic their parents behavior, so too do employees mimic the leadership behavior in the organization. Parents set the tone by which the family functions and thrives whilst leaders set the tone for the corporate culture, values, vision and mission so yes the basic principles are the same.
The key difference being that our personal relationships are more emotionally charged as they are driven by romantic love, whilst in the workplace, we are driven by the love we feel for the organization we work for, our fellow colleagues and being valued for the contribution we are making (e.g. rewards and recognition).
Considering we spend approximately 8+hours a day in our working environment, it’s not surprising to understand that our work relationships can equally have a positive or negative impact on us. In fact, relationships are an integral part of our daily life in both a personal and professional nature and having the ability to manage and nurture these relationships requires a high level of emotional intelligence (i.e. EQ).
- What are the most essential parts of building new relationships with co-workers, vendors, customers and shareholders?
How we show up and what we bring into a relational space (i.e. the space between two people which is where the ‘relating’ process takes place) is how we co-create what happens in our relationships.
Emotional intelligence gives us the ability to be aware of how we are showing up, and the emotions of others (co-workers, vendors, suppliers and shareholders).
How we use this information in the moment, helps us to manage ourselves and the relational space for others. This is called social intelligence (SQ). Emotional intelligence is the inner work we do that results in personal growth and development whilst social intelligence is how this self-work is portrayed outwards towards all who come into our space (our relationships).
How do you know if a person has a high EQ (also known as Personal Mastery)?
You can’t really see it, it’s more about what you experience when engaging with a person, how they interact with others and how they leave you feeling afterwards, some indicators are:
- Active listening skills and the ability to be fully present
- Questioning skills to gain clarity and understanding
- Effective communication skills (e.g. ability to give clear instructions)
- Ability to give and receive feedback (e.g. both positive and constructive)
- Empathy and compassion for others
- Knowledge of self and the ability to be vulnerable
- Being able to navigate change and manage conflict
These skills are key to building both our personal and working relationships.
As Daniel Goleman says: “The rules of work are changing. We’re being judged by a new yardstick: not just how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also how well we handle ourselves and others.” – in other words our relationships.
- What are the biggest barriers to building new relationships in the workplace today?
We are often unaware of how our emotional state affects those around us on a daily basis. In the work environment this does not only mean our peers and colleagues but also customers and suppliers and this forms the basis of what is known as the corporate culture in organisations.
Some of the biggest barriers or inhibitors to building new relationships are:
- Driving your own agenda as opposed to the collective (ie. team, organisation goals)
- Political power plays and silo mentality
- Not communicating effectively
- Focusing only on the numbers and not the people that make up the numbers (without people doing the work, there is no business)
- Toxic culture or environment (i.e. no trust, transparency, communication, teamwork)
- Bureaucratic and policy driven environment (disabling and disempowering)
It’s important to remember that people will go where they feel welcomed, but people will stay where they feel valued and our relationships are key in all of this.
- What are some of the key steps or elements of building authentic relationships with co-workers, vendors, customers and shareholders?
In order to foster respectful, mutual relationships in the workplace, we should look to apply the S.M.A.R.T principles in our relationships:
S – Solution Orientated
Problem-focused thinking does not help us at all to solve difficult situations, which is especially necessary in times where one must find quick solutions to an upcoming problem. Furthermore, the problem focused approach can have negative effects on one’s motivation. The very first step to approach problems with solution focused thinking is to avoid questions that mainly focus on the reason or the problem in general. Instead aim to find a win-win for your challenges and obstacles.
Using mindfulness during difficult conversations gives us the opportunity to override our body’s natural responses so we can be calmer and more focused. This state of heightened consciousness allows us to become more aware of what is causing our negative reactions and emotions. Being aware of our reactivity and what the causes are, enables us to self-regulate to a more productive state and have a better conversation and interaction. Being mindful of your thoughts, actions and behaviours is essential to both your personal and professional relationships.
A – Accountable
To hold oneself accountable means to own your feelings while taking responsibility for your contribution to the relationship – good and bad. … Accountability is what helps us implement the solutions. It’s also important to remember that you are both equally accountable and responsible for keeping the relationship space healthy and safe.
Respect each other on a human being level first and foremost, then the professionalism of other participants in the conversation as well as the task at hand. Honour your professional reputation too, as your conduct in difficult conversations will have an impact on your image and the perceptions people will have of you.
If the issue you’re raising is one of professional conduct, it becomes especially important to maintain your own professionalism during the conversation. Avoid any unprofessional behaviour, and give the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. Even if you feel disrespected, it is not a license to be disrespectful – whether the person in question is present or not. Also remember you will most likely need to continue working together after this conversation so make sure you resolve the issue in such a way as to maintain your professional relationship going forward too.
T – Time
Taking the time to know our colleagues on a human level is a key factor of relationship building. We should take time out to have a chat with a colleagues. The conversation doesn’t have to be all about mental health – it can be as simple as asking how they are, and really listening to the answer.
- How does one maintain and sustain these relationships once they have been established?
Everyone wants to feel appreciated and valued and it helps if an individual implements these behaviours on a daily basis. Being kind and interested in each individual as a human being and not just as a number on the payroll system is a start. It helps to create a safe space for others to share their ideas and views as this establishes trust. In other words use your own EQ skills to help others develop theirs and cultivate a wider sense of self awareness.
Technology can be an inhibitor to our relationships as subtle nuances such as tone of voice can get lost in translation. At the same time, technology can also be a great way to keep in touch and communicate with people but also taking into account personal time and/or time zones.
Business relationships are similar to a marriage – in both instances there is a mutual interest to achieve a collective, beneficial outcome for all parties concerned. It is important when entering a relationship (business or marriage) that there are very clear boundaries as to what is expected from each person, what the relationship deal breakers are (behaviours that won’t be tolerated) and the vision everyone is working towards.
Look to instill values that everyone operates by such as treating each other with respect, being honest about what’s working and what’s not working, manage conflict in a mature manner and finding solutions and outcomes that is win-win for all involved, remembering that communication is key every day in everything you do.
About Paula Quinsee:
Paula Quinsee: Relationship Expert, Tedx speaker and author of self-help guides: Embracing Conflict and Embracing No. Paula is your go to relationship warrior who advocates healthy personal and professional relationships by focusing on relationship dynamics, personal growth and development, emotional skills, behaviour profiling and much more.