Relationships at work are important. Not only does having a good rapport with your colleagues statistically make your days happier, but it also has been shown to improve your job performance.
The simple fact is that we, human beings, are social creatures. We need contact with people, and while this varies between people, all need some kind of social interaction.
But for a lot of people, the idea of connecting with others at work creates discomfort. Many prefer to keep their social lives separate from their work lives, and while this isn’t a terrible practice, there’s no need for a total disconnect. Some research even argues that we’re socialising with our colleagues increasingly less as time passes
So how do we change that? How do we reap the rewards gained from a co-operative and collaborative work environment?
Step 1: Baby Steps – You don’t have to be friends with everyone, or be the overly friendly person who gets to know everyone in the office. Maybe just start with one or two people you could potentially share interests with, or people you’ve had a lot of work-related talk with in the past. This builds up a positive reputation of yourself, and makes further interactions with new people start off on the right food immediately.
Step 2: You’ve Got Time – You’re busy, and that can create the belief that there just isn’t time for anything else. So make a conscious effort to bill in some time for a coffee, or even plan some lunch. Nothing complicated, just don’t let stuff get in the way.
Step 3: What’s New? – You might worry that in a casual, non-business conversation with a work colleague, you’ll simply run out of things to say. But everyone has the ability to ask a question, it’s how we interacted with the people that became our friends out of work in the first place. Even something like “What are you working on, then?” The specific term is creating a “shared psychological space” but simply put it’s making new connections, and forging new things to talk about in the future.
Step 4: Awkward Silences – If you struggle connecting with a colleague one-to-one, why not start with a group? Even the short times before the start of a meeting where everyone’s waiting around for a couple of people or something similar, spark up a conversation. Even short, seemingly unimportant chats can help you get to know someone.
Step 5: Be Realistic – For such interactions to work, you’ve got to be authentic, and you’ve got to be realistic. People notice insincerity, and this will change how your co-workers perceive you. You have to have a genuine interest at the very least. And also, be realistic in your social cues. There’s no point organising to a meet-up if you know from the start that you can’t make it.