The power of interpersonal relationships at work!

Des collègues mangent ensemble

Have you ever had a job where you didn't connect with any of your coworkers? For some, this is their reality at work. Relationships are vital to the workplace. Find out why you need to strengthen the positive bonds in your team, and how to do it.

What are interpersonal relationships, really?

Rest assured, we’re talking about team management here, not match-making! We're referring to the relationships that bind people at work: collaborations, mentoring, office sports teams, friendships, networking.

These bonds are characterized by solidarity, caring and honesty. They are forged between you and your employees, between them or with suppliers, and so on.

What’s in it for your company?

Work life is an important part of people’s lives. In Canada, in 2022, the average person worked 1,686 hours. However, we can all agree that time flies when you’re having fun!

In light of current labour shortages, a friendly workplace is an asset when it comes to attracting talented applicants. Potential employees, including recent graduates, are often looking for more than just a salary and a job title. They want an enjoyable work environment, a positive and inspiring workplace climate and friendship. Bottom line: if your company is known for being welcoming and friendly, it will be better able to attract talent.

A real-life example

At her previous job, Leanne didn’t have anyone to eat or collaborate with. The office’s clan culture left little room for newcomers. In short, there wasn't much small talk, cooperation, activities or even team meetings.

This environment ultimately forced the young graduate to seek employment elsewhere. Her new team made her feel welcome. Through teamwork, she was able to build new professional relationships. Leanne’s performance increased and she has a renewed sense of well-being.

Attracting employees is all well and good, but you have to keep them! When it comes to mobilizing your team, the employee experience is what matters most. Companies that cultivate healthy working relationships see lower turnover rates.

Moreover, bonds strengthen team cohesion, creativity, agility and even productivity. So yes, cultivating interpersonal relationships is part of a good business strategy.

What’s in it for your employees?

For most people, happiness at work comes from positive interpersonal relationships and a sense belonging. We all need to be seen, heard and recognized... it's human nature.

The benefits of such bonds are felt on many levels, and employees reap the following from them:

  • a sense of well-being and even joy
  • adequate support in challenging situations or when facing tight deadlines
  • greater trust in others, themselves and the company
  • the confidence to speak at meetings and presentations
  • feelings of inspiration and motivation
  • greater overall job satisfaction

Many of these factors also help prevent stress.

They contribute to good mental health and reduce the risk of burnout.

Career-wise, it’s good for people too. Interacting and building relationships enables them to expand their network and bolster their experience. This can pave the way for advancement within the company.

What you can do to strengthen bonds

As a manager, there are things you can do to strengthen the quality of interpersonal relationships of your employees.

As the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together. However, to create close-knit clans, it’s important to focus on other types of bonds that are broader and more beneficial to the whole team.

Let these best practices be your guide!

Start with common values

Each company has its own values. At Beneva, for example, our values include collaboration, commitment and integrity. These values serve as the foundation on which interactions between coworkers are based. Make your corporate values known internally. This will set the stage for better relationships.

Implement a code of ethics

Some companies use a code of ethics (or code of conduct) to promote a healthy, respectful workplace climate. Here are some examples:

  • Be constructive
  • Avoid starting or spreading rumours
  • Speak softly to avoid disturbing colleagues working nearby
  • Help others when they need it

Invest time

Working through lunch, answering emails during a meeting, being in two places at once... with so much to do, it's tempting to want to multitask.

However, your complete and undivided attention will prove more fruitful when it comes to the quality of your relationships. Over time, you'll have a better rapport with your colleagues and employees.

Practice active listening and set an example

Managing employees requires active listening. This skill helps build trust, empathy and a better understanding of their needs.

This is the key to creating healthy, genuine relationships, not just between you and your employees, but across the entire team. In fact, everyone has a role to play in creating a culture of cooperation.

Set up the right conditions

At work, like anywhere else, people need time and interaction to build relationships. In general, however, heavy workloads leave little room for chit chat.

Working from home and hybrid mode also complicate matters. Informal conversations by the coffee machine are becoming less common—so the challenge lies in finding new opportunities to rub shoulders.

Every week, set aside time for friendly conversations, like at the beginning or end of the day. Allocate the first 10 minutes of a meeting to breaking the proverbial ice or getting to know each other better. Occasionally, organizing a team activity after work (sporting event, happy hour, etc.) also helps strengthen interpersonal relationships.

Focus on social skills

Some people stand out for their wit, humour, charisma or kindness. These social skills are the glue that holds a team together. It’s important to recognize the value that these individual strengths have on workplace relationships. This is easy to overlook since quantifiable or technical skills are normally what get the most praise.

Do you have employees with difficult personality types on your team? Are they perceived as lone wolves, divas or hotheads? Rest assured, there are ways to deal with difficult colleagues. If your company has group insurance, call on its resources for support.

Look out for number one

Those who manage people often feel responsible for what goes right or wrong around them. Yes, your job comes with a lot of responsibility, but if you find yourself carrying too much weight or isolating yourself, seek help through your manager assistance program. Identify what is draining you the most and discover how to play your role without losing yourself.

Good interpersonal relationships start with feeling good about yourself. In other words, to be able to contribute to healthy relationships at work, you need to a sound work-life balance and to protect your mental health.

Acknowledge good deeds and say thank you

Appreciation and recognition boost collaboration and strengthen the quality of workplace relationships. To be comfortable in a group, people need to know that their value and role are recognized. Saying thank you costs nothing, and it’s the right thing to do!

Quality relationships, a work in progress

Building quality interpersonal relationships and chemistry in the workplace is a long-haul effort. Everyone needs to be a team player and take an interest in others. You also have to be there when it counts, be ready and willing to help, and know how to ask for assistance when necessary. United we stand, divided we fall.