To some of us it comes naturally. To others it takes more a conscious effort. But whichever way you view it, the ability to nurture meaningful workplace relationships with colleagues and managers is an essential skill for all of us. The way you approach your relationships in the workplace can be a significant factor in your career progression. To succeed, you must build and use strong relationship skills that support you to interact with different personalities, navigate complex situations, and overcome challenges.
Let’s explore why these skills are so important. I’ll also provide some examples that show how using these skills can strengthen your workplace relationships.
Relationship skills are important because…
They Encourage Openness and Expression
Having the relationship skills necessary to encourage others to open up and express themselves allows you to be sensitive to their needs. Active listening is one essential part of successful communication that we talk about regularly. When you actively listen, you not only hear the words but also the emotions and underlying messages. Developing and using these skills creates a safe space for your colleagues to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas.
Example: You’re working on a project with a reserved colleague who rarely shares their thoughts during team discussions. You approach them privately and tell them you’re interested in their insights. You ask open-ended questions and actively listen to what they have to say. As a result, this colleague begins to open up, providing ideas that significantly improve the project’s outcome. Your ability to encourage them to express themselves leads to a more successful collaboration.
You Will Delegate More Effectively
Delegation is important in any workplace. We can’t do everything by ourselves, all of the time. Delegation requires a significant amount of cooperation and collaboration which demands great relationship skills. To delegate effectively involves assessing your team’s strengths, skills, and attitudes, and allocating tasks accordingly. You need to know your team well to be able to do this successfully. By making considered delegation decisions you not only ensure that work is delegated to the right people, but you also create a sense of empowerment and self-sufficiency amongst the team.
Example: You’re responsible for assigning tasks for an upcoming project. Instead of randomly distributing tasks, you take the time to get to know each team member’s strengths and preferences. You discover that one team member excels at data analysis whilst another is a creative thinker. You consider this and delegate the data analysis task to the former and a brainstorming session to the latter. This approach not only results in a more efficient project but also empowers team members to work to their strengths.
You Will Get the Best Out of People
Strong relationship skills help you to unlock your team’s full potential. Building a culture of trust, collaboration, and open communication can lead to enhanced productivity and creativity. When colleagues feel supported and respected, they are more likely to give their best effort.
Example: You understand the significance of recognising your team’s hard work. Each week, you take the time to send out personalised emails to team members showing your appreciation for their contributions. One week, a team member who has consistently exceeded expectations receives special acknowledgment. They feel valued and motivated, leading to even more outstanding performance. You’ve used your relationships skills well. By acknowledging the teams’ efforts and showing appreciation you’ve increased their engagement and commitment.
You’ll Handle Difficult and Sensitive Issues
Conflict and sensitive issues are inevitable in the workplace. Knowing how to approach these situations with empathy and tact is essential. Great relationship skills can help you address conflicts constructively, turning them into opportunities for growth and resolution.
Example: A colleague has voiced their dissatisfaction with your project management style. This has created tension in the team. Instead of reacting defensively, you use your relationship skills. You have a private conversation, listen to their concerns without interruption, and acknowledge their perspective. Together, you brainstorm solutions that accommodate their preferences whilst ensuring the project’s success. Through an open and empathetic approach, you transform a potentially damaging conflict into a constructive dialogue that strengthens your working relationship.
Strong relationship skills help you create an environment of trust, collaboration, and open communication. If building strong relationships is not your strength or you have some challenging relationships at work, don’t overthink it. Remember that small, authentic steps can make a significant difference.
I hope you found the examples above useful.
There are plenty more examples and practical tips in my book Savvy Conversations: A practical framework for effective workplace relationships.
Want to know more?
Sarah Harvey is Founding Director of Savvy Conversations Ltd and author of the highly acclaimed book “Savvy Conversations: A practical framework for effective workplace relationships.”
Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/savvysarah
X (Formerly Twitter): @SarahSavvySarah