Building relationships with coworkers isn't just essential to networking, and in turn, advancing your career, it also makes work more enjoyable. And yet, for a number of reasons — from personal factors, like shyness, to shorter job tenures and anxieties around political correctness — professionals today often struggle to build connections with their coworkers.
The good news is: We've got your back. Here are eight straightforward relationship-building tips from Randstad to help you build and sustain trust, be more likable at work and continue to grow — both professionally and personally.
what to do with workplace conversations
- Be authentic: This sounds so easy, but with all the stress, power struggles and fluctuating interpersonal dynamics that characterize the modern workday, it's small wonder many people find it difficult to simply be themselves and make small talk at work. And that's not good, particularly given the fact that studies have linked authenticity to numerous positive work-related outcomes. In general, being authentic makes it easier for you to communicate effortlessly and honestly and form connections that are grounded in common interests.
- Mirror others in your group: For the most part, studies show that "mirroring" — that is, subtly altering your body language and mode of communication to reflect others around you — helps increase rapport and generate positive feeling in social scenarios. But bear in mind that mirroring doesn't mean being inauthentic. Rather, it's a way of demonstrating that you are paying attention to group dynamics and committed to listening closely to and validating members of your team. (A lot of this happens unconsciously as part of what psychologists call the chameleon effect.) But your opinions, ideas, beliefs and the litany of things that make you who you are — these don't change simply because you're mirroring others.
- Practice deep listening: "Deep listening" refers to a different kind of listening than the sort we're accustomed to from normal conversations, in which case we're trying to glean superficial information — the factual content — of what’s being spoken. In contrast, deep listening requires listening for and registering nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions. These cues can help give you insight into the emotional state of the speaker, making it easier to develop a connection.
- Follow up: Think of sharing as an invitation for future acts of sharing. Did Zach mention to you last week that he was looking forward to his son's drum recital? Well, show him you were listening by asking him how it went when you sit down with him this week. Personal connections can only be built by sharing over time, so you shouldn't let these details of your coworkers' lives fall by the wayside.
what not to do with workplace conversations
- Overshare: When conversations cross a certain barrier, they tend to make everyone uncomfortable. And while the location of that line may be difficult to pinpoint exactly, simply paying attention to social cues will tell you when you're near it. Nobody wants to hear the details of your upcoming bunion-removal surgery.
- Only talk about work: In the course of a busy day, it's important to have time to laugh and relax with coworkers without having to talk or think about work looming deadlines. Office celebrations — for instance, birthdays or team wins — are a great opportunity.
- Gossip: Complaining about teammates is a non-starter in any social context in which you're interacting with colleagues. Instead, focus on the positive. For instance, who really stepped it up to complete the project on time? Who did you get a chance to collaborate with for the first time? And whose ideas played a big role in shaping the conversation? Studies have found that emotions can be "contagious" — and, what's more, that positive emotions can be channeled to improve cooperation, decrease conflict and increase perceived task performance.
- Engage in direct flattery: For starters, there's research to indicate that compliments actually can make people feel defensive. And even beyond that, there's gain-loss theory, which teaches us that the impact of positive comments diminishes as their frequency increases — positive feedback, in other words, is most meaningful when delivered in small doses. So, instead of being a toady sycophant, use what are called "empathic statements" based on actual listening. See a colleague who looks happy? A remark like "It sure looks like you're having a good day" will leave your colleague beaming while also serving as a prod for further conversation and connection.
Follow these simple do-s and don't-s and you'll be socializing like a pro. And if you want even more insights that can drive your career forward, Randstad has you covered. Click here to find actionable advice on all aspects of your professional growth.