How often do you think about the way your coworkers see you? Your answers of yes or no to 5 statements can help you shift your professional relationships so that you’re a highly-effective colleague:
1. I invest enough time and attention into collegial relationships.
2. I listen to coworkers with an open mind.
3. I show appreciation, empathy and respect for my colleagues’ perspectives.
4. I’m able to get out of my comfort zone and express humility.
5. I can let go, relax and have fun with coworkers.
Do You Invest Enough Time and Attention?
Work relationships are not always easy. Just as your favorite potted plant needs water, fertilizer and sunlight to bloom, vital business relationships need tending if they are to thrive. In today’s demanding world, many people put daily workloads and job tasks before human interactions. Studies show that 40% of wage earners feel isolated at work, and long-standing research shows that vital workplace interactions lead to higher job performance, satisfaction and productivity. Employees who feel they belong are happier and healthier than coworkers who feel excluded. Plus, they receive twice as many raises and are 18 times more likely to be promoted. A nationwide survey of 1,800 full-time workers by BetterUp found that employees with a high sense of belonging take 75% fewer sick days than employees who feel excluded. These sick days equate to almost $2.5 million worth of lost productivity each year, per 10,000 workers.
It’s good economics to think of your professional connections as a bank account and ask yourself, Am I managing these professional investments? and What deposits have I made lately with coworkers? Compare your recent deposits with the withdrawals. Ask yourself if you’re taking or ignoring more than you’re giving. As with a bank account, relationships require periodic deposits—time, attention, support, understanding, heart-to-heart talks, encouragement even forgiveness—to stay solvent. These deposits offset withdrawals—deadlines, emotional demands, job pressure, criticism, misunderstandings and disagreements—that naturally occur in workplace interactions.
Instead of waiting for a coworker to connect with you, make it a habit to reach out first to keep your interactions vital. Send an email or text with a smiling emoji if you’re remote working. Consider reaching out to a colleague you don’t know well—perhaps with a Zoom chat. Find out their special skills or career goals. Opening up in a professionally appropriate way and involving coworkers in small aspects of your daily life build cohesive networks.
Do You Listen With An Open Mind?
Communication Gridlock occurs when you’re stuck in your own point of view, unwilling to see a problem from a colleague’s vantage point. You communicate your feelings as facts, refuse to entertain another perspective and turn a deaf ear to other ideas because you’ve already make up your mind that you’re right and a coworker is wrong. You’re determined to force your point of view by commanding, finger pointing or criticizing. Gridlock leads to defensiveness, criticism, withdrawal and contempt—signs of a complete breakdown of a professional relationship.
You can overcome gridlock and reduce job stress by paying attention to how you give and receive information. Ask yourself if you finish a coworker’s sentences to rush through a conversation? Are you so intent on getting your point across that you don’t hear the other person? Or during a conversation does your mind wander back to your desk finishing that email you left hanging?
Deep listening—versus passive listening—actively engages you in what a colleague says and feels. Instead of thinking of what you want to say next, giving unsolicited advice, or hijacking the conversation to your point of view, try fully engaging in what a business associate says and feels. You might nod your head or lean forward with interest. You use direct eye contact and listen with empathy without giving advice unless it’s asked for. Saying, Thank you, please, good morning and goodbye never goes out of style.
If you’re a good communicator, you’re willing to suspend your point of view and communicate about problems and concerns. You’re open to ideas that conflict with your own. You strive for a harmonious connection where neither party is interested in conflict, judging, criticism, or in interpreting each other’s actions. Overwhelming episodes of appreciation are frequent, and both parties are susceptible to receiving support and have an uncontrollable urge to extend it to the other.
Do You Value Your Coworkers’ Perspectives?
All of us have our own version of what happens when there’s a problem in a professional relationship. But our version isn’t necessarily the only version. Suppose a couple is flying for the first time. One person is listening through her earphones to Lady Gaga, excited about her first flight. Her spouse is white-knuckling the armrest terrified the plane might crash. You have two people having the same objective experience but having a different subjective experience.
Such is the nature of collegial relationships. Even though you might think your perspective is the factual situation, that doesn’t make it true. Because there are often two or more different interpretations of the same event, it’s important to avoid getting stuck in your own perspective. In some cases, it’s important to temporarily suspend your point of view and try to see the problem from another perspective. Plugging into someone’s point of view (without agreement) increases your understanding, reduces your reactivity and unearths your compassion.
Empathetic listening liberates you from your own narrow perspective and helps you see the big picture and refrain from snap judgments. Using empathy by putting yourself in a coworker’s shoes temporarily suspends your viewpoint and sharpens deep listening skills. Plus, being more mindful of your reactions can give you a sober awareness of how you’re perceived by others. Staying mentally attuned in the present moment to someone’s point of view—instead of mentally going back to your workstation—increases your understanding and deepens your ability to connect.
Do You Stretch out of Your Comfort Zone?
Ask yourself if you’re an uptight closed book, unwilling to suspend your judgments, resistant to novel experiences, afraid to venture outside predictability. Or are you an open book, humble and curious in new situations, able let go and be spontaneous and flexible? Relationships can be stressful because they require a degree of vulnerability, humility and uncertainty. A Harvard study found that, regardless of how much money you make, without healthy relationships, you can’t be happy. It’s not about the number of relationships you have, but the depth and vulnerability of a quality relationship.
If you hide behind your fear of rejection and hesitate to speak your truth in a respectful way, you could be headed down the wrong path. You’ve heard the old saying, “You have to go out on a limb to get to the fruit of the tree.” The key is to get out of your comfort zone, stick your neck out in business ventures as well as cultivating transparent professional relationships.
You speak your truth, not just from your head but also from your heart with “I” messages instead of “You” messages: “At first I wasn’t sure we would work well together, but now I recognize how much I’ve learned from you” or “I really enjoyed collaborating on that project even though we had our ups and downs along the way.” When you’re honest, you make it clear where you stand and build cohesive work bonds. Collegial relationships built on pretense eventually crumble like a house of cards.
Can You Let Go and Have Fun With Colleagues?
Professional relationships are not meant to be all work and no play. You can make an effort to not allow job pressures to bleed into fun times, so it doesn’t dilute work morale. In fact, lightheartedness and fun are the ingredients that spice up an otherwise dull, drab workplace. Too much intensity can dry up relationships and cause them to wither on the vine. Studies show that coworkers are happier and their relationships endure when they have fun together.
Workers who get stuck in ruts and routines tend to associate the humdrum quality of their collegial relationships with the boredom they unwittingly create. The mainstay to sustainable work relationships includes creating adventures, sharing in new and exciting goals, and breaking with routines and doing something different. It can be as simple as telling jokes and laughing together or fun pastimes you share as a team after hours such as a bowling league or softball team.
Article Scooped from the Forbes
Categories: Management and Career Tips