There is the actual work you do. And then there is the work you have to do to build relationships at work. Your work and your work relationships are equally important. Here’s a few things (lots of questions) to think about…
You know it from building friendships and romantic relationships, communication is prime to building good relationships. More so at work. Think about the tone of your emails, the pitch of your voice when you are speaking, your posture, are things being lost in translation?
How do you resolve conflict? how do you give and take feedback? Do you feel attacked when people express a different opinion to counter yours? Ok, now thing about how you handle all these scenarios when you are under pressure or stressed. When you are angry, how do you communicate your anger? When you feel very strongly about a certain idea that everyone else is opposing, how do you share your point of view? Your radical views and unpopular opinions, how do you push them forward? What can you improve?
Also, are you in the habit of asking questions about what you do not understand? Are you making sure you are on the same page with your seniors on expectations? Do you listen to the criticism of your clients, constructive or not? What do you do to bring everyone on board?
Finally, issues of courtesy. When do you send a long email, when to keep it short? Should this be an email or can you try a coffee, in person? When do you call or when should you text, should you text at all? How do you ask for a favor? How do you tell someone they could do a better job? Are you giving enough compliments? How do you package your messaging? Are you too friendly, are you hostile, are you approachable or are you building walls? Say you are an extrovert, more direct and a bit loud, are you considerate of how you talk to your quieter colleagues. There’s some cultural elements too, so consider whether you are too soft spoken and indirect for a more upfront working environment. Can you learn to speak up and a bit louder? Are you questioning your bias, your attitude, your beliefs and even your perspectives? Sometimes, you are not always right, believe me.
Learn to work with people who have a different opinion to yours. And also with people you do not like. There is the usual team work, with people who’s work is directly related to yours, that’s one thing. And then there is team work with people whose work does not immediately seem important to your deliverables, but they are essential to some other elements of your organization’s administration and culture. Yes, you need to collaborate with the front desk staff, you are part of their team. Know their name. Ask them how their weekend was, on Monday morning (something like that, if we ever go back to having actual weekends and actual Mondays in the ‘new normal’).
To collaborate is not always to deliver work together. Sometimes it is to listen to your colleagues and find our what they are doing. Recognize them. Validate their work. Everyone likes to be heard, so ask for that odd (virtual) coffee and hear out what others are doing.
The essence here is to make sure you are not an island. Always check in with your peers, your seniors and that one person who does something that you have no idea about. As you get to know what other people do, you will get to know them and when you know people, you have already met them halfway. They do not have to be your besties, but try not to be a stranger for long. Make acquaintances.
Here is where the rubber meets the road. Yes you should negotiate your salary and your benefits, etcetera. You know what else you need to negotiate? Your way. You are an advocate for yourself and your work and your expertise. So in a meeting, when you have to make a point, especially an unpopular opinion, you need to have a strategy for how your listeners can accept your suggestions. How do you make your propositions?
Negotiation is also about not being a pushover, and consolidating your position and claiming your space, and your time. How you say no. How often you say no. How you feel about saying no. You are not one to be bullied. You should also not be one to be overworked, at the expense of your personal time and health. Boundaries! You need to negotiate that. You know, the hard part is to be so effective at those negotiations that you are building fences not walls (you can unpack that).
To negotiate is be effective at communicating and collaborating. To aim for a win-win and less of winner takes all.
This one is easy. And the most important. Never stop learning. You can always improve, no matter how great you are. So take a course, hire a course, read a book, attend a seminar. Ask for feedback from objective people. And work on that feedback. You know what else is important to building relationships? Small talk. I swear by it. Not conversations about weather, there is a way to master how to pick on lighthearted conversations with anyone that will help you make acquaintance. You are going to need to be bold. but you can do it.
It is a lot to think about.
But what is the joy of work, if not to enjoy working with the people we work with?