Educate February 2018

Establishing Effective Working Relationships with Coworkers


Written By: Craig W. Petrus

They often say that we spend more time at our workplace with our co-workers than we do at home with our families. If you are like many other hard-working professionals, this is indeed the case. As is the case with our relationships, we have good days where everything is positive, while other days can seem to be challenging. Since we spend so much time at work, we sometime experience those challenging days where our co-worker relationships do not click as well as they should. Here are a few tips on limiting those types of days and establishing healthy working relationships with you and your fellow team members.

Appreciate others and their opinions

The best and most productive working cultures are those where everyone appreciates each other’s opinions, ideas and innovations, without fear of being negatively challenged or looked upon as “they don’t know what they are talking about.”

By having a positive culture where new ideas are welcome, complimented by positive and accepted “group-think,” you and your team will soar to success. One co-worker’s idea brought to the table can easily be cultivated by your fellow team members into the next, greatest idea or product innovation in your industry. Establish a work culture where your team members appreciate each other’s ideas and opinions without fear of looking stupid, while also accepting those who positively challenge those ideas in a healthy and constructive way.

Help goes to those who help themselves first

I learned early on in my career that the easiest way to waste a team members’ time is by asking them for something that could have easily taken care of by yourself. While we may not realize it at the time due to how busy we are, how distracted we may be or other factors impeding our thought process at any given time, take a few moments before you ask for the assistance of a co-worker and ask yourself, “Did I do everything I could to obtain the answer or assistance I need?”

Approach the situation by communicating to your coworker those specific things you have done to seek an answer to your problem prior to seeking their help, so that they are aware that you did indeed put some thought to the issue at hand, prior to approaching them for assistance. This will go a long way in establishing a healthy relationship and a level respect and willingness of that co-worker to assist you. No one likes to have to do extra work and make up for the laziness around us, so think before you ask.

Take responsibility for your actions

Admitting when things go wrong and taking responsibility for your mistakes is a huge factor in establishing positive and healthy relationships with your co-workers. Mistakes will happen, there is no way of avoiding them, so the sooner we accept that they will happen to us, the better off you and those around you will be. No one likes someone who passes the blame on others or makes excuses for why something went sideways. On the contrary, I highly respect those around me who admit they made a mistake and approach the situation with alternative solutions or a way to fix the problem. I often get excited to help them fix the problem because I know we are working together towards turning a negative situation around and coming up with a positive solution or result.

The key to this, however, is something I just mentioned above. When taking responsibility for something or admitting your mistakes, approach the situation with solutions or ideas on how to turn the negative situation into a positive one. By coming to the table with nothing, you will show your co-workers that you may not care or that you are okay with accepting mediocracy. Show others what you have learned from the situation and how you intend to do better in the future. For those managers out there, be accepting to those employees who admit their mistakes and approach you with solutions. You want to earn the respect of your team members and this is one great way to establish this.

Willingness to lend a hand

Become a true team player and always be willing to lend a hand when needed. A great way to establish a healthy working relationship with your coworkers is to recognize their need for assistance and do what you can to help, even during those times when not asked to do so.

Whether you know this or not, you are part of a team trying to accomplish a goal. As the saying goes, there is no “I” in team. Be cognizant of what is happening with your co-workers and recognize those moments when they seem to be stuck. Approach these moments with a sincere willingness to assist. You will encounter these situations one day and it is always great to have a positive team around you to lift you up and get you through a challenge, whatever it may be.

Praise your fellow coworkers

Success breeds success, so take the time to praise your fellow co-workers for those moments they have accomplished something great for your team. They will appreciate your recognition, and in turn, begin to recognize those times when you yourself have achieved success. Establishing this culture of recognition among your co-workers will result in a positive working environment where everyone desires to work hard, has a passion for what they do, and wants to achieve success for both themselves and their team. We should not approach our jobs for the sole purpose of recognition. Though occasionally, recognition can result in a continuous atmosphere of success.

Always be positive

Possessing a positive outlook towards your every day life will most certainly help you achieve both professional and personal success. It will also most certainly trickle down to those with whom you spend the most time, i.e. your co-workers. Despite the challenges you or those around you face, be a positive example for your co-workers and approach your work, your relationships and your every day in a positive manner.

As challenging as something may appear, train your brain to automatically think something positive about the situation as opposed to your initial thought being negative. In those challenging moments, positive thoughts can be such things as “How can I turn this into a beneficial situation for myself and those around me?”

Having this mentality is a healthy one to have, as opposed to thinking, “we’re doomed.” Become an example for your colleagues by establishing productive relationships. This will show them how effective it can be for a sound environment and success of the team.

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Craig W. Petrus joined the Warrington College of Business in June of 2009. As Executive Director, Craig is responsible for day-to-day operations of the Business Career Services Office and ensuring the delivery of quality career development programming and services to students within the College of Business at the University of Florida. 

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