A recent British Heart Foundation survey suggests some of our top 10 socially awkward situations at work are the result of not knowing our colleagues as well as we probably should. But breaking down these barriers isn’t just good for a comfortable working atmosphere, it can be good for productivity too.

And while nobody expects you to be best friends with every single one of your work colleagues, having positive relationships in the workplace can boost teamwork and make your job more enjoyable. Just being more aware of what your work colleagues do in their jobs can improve your understanding of what they may need from you, which can help you work together more effectively.

Here are 5 things you could do to build good relationships with your fellow workers:

1. Be a good listener

It’s easy to get carried away when you’re trying to get your opinion across. But being a good listener is just as important when it comes to developing good communication with those you work with. Try saying less and listening more. Let your work colleagues have their say without interrupting them. And if you want them to know you’ve taken in what they’ve been talking about, try to repeat some of their points back to them.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak up or only make yourself heard if you have something important to say. In fact, it’s a good idea to practice a certain amount of small talk at the office, as it can help break the ice with a co-worker you may not know very well and put them at ease.

2. Socialise outside the office

If you’re the type of person who rushes back home at the end of the day whenever your work colleagues organise drinks or a similar get-together, you may be missing out. You don’t have to go out partying with them every night – just aim to socialise with them every now and then in a non-office environment. Many people find it easier to relax and open up more in a social setting, and they will no doubt appreciate you for making the effort.

3. Venture outside your department

Most people will know the people they work most closely with to some extent. But what about your co-workers in the rest of the company? It’s a good idea to try to mix with people working in different departments, as it can help you to get a better understanding of the organisation as a whole. So next time you see someone from another part of the organisation who you’ve never met, why not approach them and say hello?

4. Tackle conflicts sooner rather than later

Like any other environment where different people come together from different backgrounds, opinions and walks of life, offices are breeding grounds for arguments and upsets. If you find yourself involved in a conflict with a work colleague, try not to let the situation simmer. Arrange to discuss the issue with the colleague in question as soon as possible, and try to keep things professional. At the very least you may agree to disagree –but that’s preferable to ignoring the situation until it gets out of hand.

5. Be respectful at all times

Finally, try to be pleasant and polite at the office, and respect your colleagues’ views – even when you don’t agree with them. An office where people are respectful of each other will usually be more productive and effective than one where there’s lots of gossip and negativity (not to mention more enjoyable to work in).

How CABA can help

Everything we do at CABA is underpinned by our commitment to provide lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, past and present ICAEW staff, and their close families. All of our services are free, impartial and strictly confidential.

For advice and information call us on +44 (0) 1788 556 366, email enquiries@caba.org.uk, complete our online form or chat to us online.

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