Forming good working relationships and why it’s important

by Sara Lundenberger, director of nonprofit consulting | Feb 25, 2021 |

Consulting, Leadership, Networking |

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If I ask you to think about positive work relationships you’ve had in the past, you’d probably say that the projects went smoothly, a lot of work was completed, everyone enjoyed working together, etc. But what about when the relationship is bad? It leads to miscommunication, frustration and, in some cases, a lack of any work being done. I’ve experienced both of these situations with coworkers and clients and can easily say that good working relationships will always be more productive than contentious ones. You’re bound to come across both, but there are things you can do to foster positive working relationships and prevent tough situations from leading those relationships in the wrong direction.

Forming positive relationships with your coworkers

You spend a lot of time with the people you work with. In most cases, more time that you spend with anyone else in your life. Being able to create a foundation of mutual respect with your coworkers allows everyone to feel relaxed and valued. When we work in a positive environment, we are more productive. It’s also helpful to be able to call in favors when you need help, honest feedback or, worst of all, you made a mistake and need help fixing it. You are not going to be best friends with all of your coworkers but knowing that they have your back and you have theirs goes a long way.

Forming positive relationships with your clients/donors/volunteers/board

I can’t stress enough how important it is to create solid, positive relationships with the people you work with outside your organization. For most of us, we wouldn’t have jobs if it weren’t for our clients, donors, volunteers, etc. A bad relationship can very quickly turn from “we just don’t get along” to “you are no longer working with them” or even worse, “you’re fired.” As I’ve gotten older, I have moved away from the idea that everyone has to like me and come to the conclusion that it’s an unrealistic expectation. Instead, I work hard to make sure my clients respect me, trust me and know that I will do my best to get the results they are looking for.

Forming positive relationships with your vendors

Why is it important to have a good relationship with vendors? Because you need them. You will need them to stretch a deadline. You will need them to reprint something at the last minute because of a rogue typo. You will need them to turn around a project in a day that should take a week. Vendors are so important to our daily successes. Be good to your vendors and they will be good to you. Read more about this in Amy’s blog post about how to pick good vendors.

So, you know you need to make sure you are maintaining a good relationship with all of these people, but how do you do that? Here are some tips:

Emphasize open communication

Be honest, be respectful and listen. Most issues arise because you aren’t hearing what the other person is saying. Many people have a really bad habit of listening to respond and not listening to comprehend. If you know you have a combative relationship with someone, be especially focused when talking to them.

Good relationships really are built on trust. Be honest when talking about a project, a deadline or a new idea. Nothing is worse than agreeing to a deadline or course of action that you know isn’t feasible. And it isn’t going to help the relationship if the person you are working with feel like he or she can’t trust you to be honest.

Form personal bonds

Let other people see a little bit of your true self, not just your work self. I think we all have two personalities when it comes to work and personal life, and that’s fine. But letting the people you work with see who you really are outside of work can deepen your connection, making your working relationship more productive. However, be selective about what you share and with whom. It may take some people a little more time to open up and they might not want to hear about your wild weekend in Vegas. And if Zoom has taught us anything, it’s that seeing people in their home environment can give is a glimpse into their personal lives, good or bad. Finding things you have in common and can share with the people you work with will strengthen your bonds and potentially give you a better understanding of who they are and how they operate.

Have a positive attitude

Nobody wants to work with a negative nelly. We all have good days and bad days, but if you’re bad days are seriously outweighing your good ones, it may lead to bigger problems. Having a positive attitude and overall happy demeanor can make you more enjoyable to be around and approachable. The saying “you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar” is popular for a reason.

If you find yourself in the middle of a bad working relationship, take a step back. Try to pinpoint when the relationship went awry. Was it brought on by a single negative encounter or a deeper issue that has arisen over months or years? Sometimes, the best way to turn that negative into a positive is to have a tough conversation. If you and the other person can come to an agreement moving forward and let past feeling stay in the past, you may be able to form a working relationship that works for both of you.

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