Sometimes I meet people who tell me they don’t have time to chat to their colleagues, or as one person confided, “I don’t think much about relationships at work”. Well, getting to know the people around you is a wise investment on so many levels. Here are just a few potential benefits to consider, in no particular order:
Get more done faster
Having good relationships with your peers, up, down and sideways at work, will help you be more effective and efficient. It makes sense that people are more willing to act quickly for people they know, like and respect. And we have all experienced or heard what it is like when someone goes out of their way to make things difficult for someone at work. If you haven’t already, one day you will really need a friend at work to vouch for you and help you through a difficult time. Spend a few minutes here and there getting to know your peers now, just in case that day is around the corner.
A better night’s sleep
As a coach I’m interested in what gives people meaning and vitality in their lives. I often ask them to consider how they will feel at the end of a big meeting or as they retire about how they have handled themselves at work. Treating your colleagues in the ways you would like to be treated means you will more likely go home feeling proud of yourself and sleep better than if you have had a day full of blame and conflict. Your retirement party will probably also be better attended as a result.
Improve your emotional intelligence quotient (EQ)
As the Scottish author Ian Maclaren reminded us, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”. This is no less true of our colleagues than it is of our loved ones. Outside of work people are facing illness, divorce, miscarriage, bereavement and so much more. I often teach people perspective taking skills, i.e. stepping into their colleagues’ shoes, so that they can start to better understand why people behave the way they do. A boss who is under a lot of pressure from the CEO may snap at you and it isn’t personal. If a colleague seems to mistrust your intentions in a meeting it may simply be that this person has been betrayed before and is wary to be hurt again.
By improving our empathy skills we can start to have more compassion for those we come into contact with and appreciate the complexities of relationships. It can really help to give the benefit of the doubt more often than not. And bring curiosity into your interactions – “I wonder why” - rather than jumping to conclusions about others’ motives.
It helps your personal brand
If you are a senior executive then you are no doubt already aware that you have a brand. Every time you get into a lift at work what three words would you like others to think of when they see you? Perhaps “arrogant, rude, … ” may not be the greatest accolade. If you take a couple of minutes to be interested in people around you (this includes stakeholders in and outside of the organization) you will hopefully boost your brand. As an added bonus you might head home at night with a smile on your face rather than with frowns associated with conflict and mistrust.
It may feel like you don’t have time to chat at work. The irony is that chatting may well be what helps you both to feel good personally and also to get more work done. Being friendly actually makes good business sense and really isn’t that hard to do. If you want to be well respected at work then investing in work relationships is well worth your time and energy.
Louise Shepherd is an executive coach with Executive Coaching International and also runs The Sydney ACT Centre. She has had a successful career for almost 20 years as a clinical psychologist. At ECI Louise now works closely with senior executives across a wide array of industry sectors in Australia.