How To Be The Best At Genuinely Liking Your Colleagues

How To Make Workplace Friendships Happen

Does the idea of bonding with your colleagues make you react with knee-jerk disgust? Or is the thought of an after-work social thrilling to your core? We’ve got news for you; science is proving that building quality relationships at work can help you to personally flourish, improve creativity, productivity and lower your rank on the pissed-off-at-work scale, dramatically. 

Amy E. Colbert et al., researched the role that workplace relationships play in the way employees flourish and found that “stories that employees told about positive relationships at work revealed that relationships serve a broad range of functions, including the traditionally studied functions of task assistance, career advancement, and emotional support, as well as less studied functions of personal growth, friendship, and the opportunity to give to others.” Colbert and her team found a direct link with “the relationship functions and outcomes indicative of an employee flourishing.” 

Their unique results revealed the following associations between functions and outcomes: 

  • Task assistance was most strongly associated with job satisfaction
  • Giving to others was most strongly associated with meaningful work
  • Friendship was most strongly associated with positive emotions at work
  • Personal growth was most strongly associated with life satisfaction. 

Wow, so having pals at work actually does play a key role in employee happiness and development. 

High‐quality relationships at work are the new thing people. So if you want to taste a slice of this happy workplace pie, then it might be an idea to utilise these 3 tips to gain a career advantage and a much-needed mood boost. 

1. Forgive

2. Appreciate generational differences

3. Be vulnerable 

Let’s get friendly. 

Forgive And Try To Forget 

If you get the urge to strangle Joe for chewing loudly or to push Sasha down the stairs for claiming your idea as her own, then this point may help you. Forgiveness and revenge; it seems that the latter is easier to do than the former, but if you want to form better relationships at work, then learning to forgive over seeking revenge is a good place to start. 

The cross-analysis study, When Push doesn’t Come to Shove by Karl Aquino et al., defined workplace revenge as “a process by which an offended worker cognitively acknowledges the wrongfulness of an injurious act and deliberately chooses to release negative emotions and inhibit the desire for revenge.” We all know that feeling and very little good comes from it. “In contrast to revenge, forgiveness may repair damaged workplace relationships in the aftermath of a personal offense.” If you can forget Sasha’s ego (once again) taking over the show and zone out of Joe’s disregard for anyone else around him, you might be able to open up the gap for potential friendships. They’ll certainly notice your change in attitude which should shift their behavioural patterns too.

3 steps to forgiveness: 

1. Let go of old grudges 

2. Rid of negative feelings

3. Forgive and feel the bond

Generational Guessing Game 

In 2020 there may be up to 5 generations in one office, including:

  • Traditionalists
  • Baby Boomers
  • Generation X
  • Generation Y, or Millennials
  • Generation Z.

That’s a lot of people from different periods in time, with a variety of feelings, opinions and ways of doing things. Which can be a recipe for disaster or a cocktail for collaborations – depending on how you approach it. 

Take for example Millennials in the workplace. Studies have shown that their communication skills differ greatly to other generations. Karen K. Myers et al., state that “Millennials have distinctive characteristics that may make interacting with them different from with previous cohorts… For example, empirical studies support the stereotypes that Boomers are ambitious workaholics who may be critical of co-workers who do not share those values (McGuire et al. 2007), while Generation X workers are sceptics who like to work autonomously and notoriously dislike meetings and group work (Martin 2005).” They go on to mention how Millennials have received a lot of attention from the media and their parents, alluding to the fact they could crave this in the workplace too. This is debatable. 

How can you build relationships with other generations in the workplace? 

Tips from Alison Davis on how to communicate with a Millenial (and in fact everyone else) suggests communicating with every generation in the same way. She says to communicate in a bite-sized and “easy to access, instantly understandable” way, whilst also remaining aware of generational differences. For example, baby boomers are known for emphasising teamwork and mutual understanding according to Corley-Richards. Whilst Gen Z like to communicate with multiple screens, imagery and they respond well to personalisation. If you bear these things in mind, you may find your patience and tolerance increase and an appreciation of your ability to adapt to others ways of working will be noted. In turn, new relationships could blossom and old walls knocked down. 

Be Vulnerable 

It’s often thought that showing your vulnerable side is a sign of weakness. And vulnerability in the workplace is often seen as a nightmare, because nothing could be worse than revealing the inner you, right? 

The Oxford Dictionary reflects these fears by offering the following word suggestions similar to vulnerability; “in danger, in peril, in jeopardy, at risk, endangered, unsafe.” All of those words look like a potential promotion compromise. Luckily Brené Brown has ignored the way dictionaries describe the word and has changed the way we look at the term vulnerability for good. Brown is a shame and vulnerability expert who offers life-altering lessons when it comes to revealing, embracing and sharing vulnerabilities. 

She believes by allowing yourself to be and feel vulnerable, it can open up a new way of living and also allow us to connect with each other, especially in the workplace:  “Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” Brown believes that when you share your vulnerability you can bring a new energy to a room and learn to support each other in a far more genuine way. She highlights the importance of being able to “talk about your failures without apologizing.” This point is poignant in the office space if a project hasn’t hit targets or/and you messed up.

Michael Eraut found that “there is a triangular relationship between challenge, support and confidence” in the workplace. To attempt a challenge, to be able to support someone and to feel confidence, relies on exposing your own vulnerability. And that’s why exposing your vulnerable side is a key part of building relationships in the office. “Showing you’re human, you get things wrong and you’re happy to fail all count towards this. If there is neither a challenge nor sufficient support to encourage a person to seek out or respond to a challenge, then confidence declines and with it the motivation to learn.” 

Sophie Finlay, Recruitment Director at Bridgewater Recruitment Group and regular CareerExperts contributor says:

“One of the key ways to build stronger relationships at work is to be a good listener. When you’re catching up with a colleague or manager you should be taking in what they are saying, alongside their tone of voice and body language. Mirroring both gestures and words will not only show the person that you value what they have to say, but it will also help you build respect and credibility while helping you to make better judgements and decisions.”

Now you’re loaded with the 3 steps to genuinely liking your colleagues, you can put them into practice immediately. Go on, we dare you.

Real friendships at work = flourishing, developing and thriving people.

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Sources Cited:

Journal of Business and Psychology

Maisie Bygraves

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