Three Tips for Fostering Meaningful Work Relationships

The Importance of Meaningful Work Relationships

Many of us have accepted superficial work relationships as the norm, and as stated by Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at Stanford, “we are increasingly ‘working alone.’” Research shows that the number of those with meaningful work relationships has drastically declined since the 1980s. However, when it comes down to it, the workplace is made up of human beings, and human beings have a natural desire to feel like they belong.

As stated in a Harvard Business Review article, employees are not only happier when they have meaningful work relationships, but it also makes them more productivecreative, and collaborative. They also report being more satisfied with their job, are less susceptible to burnout, and are less likely to leave their organization to pursue another role. In addition, a Gallup study found employees who reported having a best friend at work were 37% more likely to report that someone at work encourages their development and 21% more likely to report that at work, they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day. Further research shows that teams of friends outperform teams of acquaintances in both decision making and effort tasks.

On the other hand, Harvard Business Review states that when employees feel disconnected, lonely or isolated in the workplace from their team or lonely at work, it greatly impacts not only their mental health but also their performance. Their ability to focus and willingness to collaborate deteriorates. What’s worse is that they devote valuable cognitive resources to attempting to hide their loneliness from others and become very susceptible to burnout and depression.

Tips for Fostering Meaningful Work Relationships

Listed below are three tips for helping you foster meaningful relationships in the workplace:

  1. Utilize the Onboarding Process: Studies indicate that one of the strongest drivers of friendships is similarity, meaning that the more employees have in common with one another, the more likely they are to build a lasting friendship. Managers can leverage this insight by doing a “favorite things” or “breaking the ice” type of interview during the onboarding process. Then they can sprinkle those details in during their welcome message to help fellow employees identify similarities and spark talking points.
  2. Highlight Shared Goals and Objectives: Social psychologists have long supported the theory that shared goals, or the experience of working together toward a common objective, supports the development of friendships. That is why it is important for managers to ensure employees view each other as teammates and not just colleagues. A great way to do this is by emphasizing team-wide goals, recognizing individuals for the role they played in the team’s success, and outlining the vital part of each team member when it comes to designating tasks for each new objective.
  3. Turn Tense Moments into Opportunities for Connection: Difference of opinions only turn into conflicts when the involved team members feel undervalued, unappreciated or not respected. However, when a difference of opinion is handled the right way, it can lead to deeper connections, more creative solutions, better decision-making, and higher performance. It is up to leaders to teach and encourage the use of relationship-building statements during collaboration. These statements are focused on reassuring the colleague that your disagreement has nothing to do with your relationship, and everything to do with finding the best solution.

To learn more about fostering meaningful work relationships and its benefits, visit Harvard Business Review!

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