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We recently conducted some research which found that there is a shortage of trust and reciprocity in our relationships at work.

Our survey of 1,000 business professionals discovered that building relationships with colleagues is frequently done out of necessity, rather than desire. We think that this needs to change, as there is so much to be gained when knowledge, time and support is shared between colleagues and friends. Organisations are more successful, and individuals are much happier.

Below are seven ways to help build relationships with those you work with, some of which might also help you to feel more fulfilled in your job. 

1. Understand the importance of relationships at work

Just 34% of professionals think building supportive relationships with colleagues is important. 15% admit that they only build relationships with colleagues because it’s encouraged by their employer – and a worrying 7% saying they don’t want to connect with colleagues at all.

Challenge: Identify a colleague who might value your support and arrange a 10-minute conversation to get to know their needs better. Don’t ask for anything in return.

2. Put more trust in those around you

Professionals on average trust 36 people in their workplace, and believe that they are trusted by an average of 49 people. Junior managers and entry-level/graduates trust the fewest people in the workplace, perhaps reflecting their ambition and competition for progress. The number of people we trust increases as we move up the company hierarchy, with entry-level/graduates trusting 29 people, increasing to 62 people at C-suite level. However, this also suggests an overestimation of how we are perceived in the workplace, where we assume we’re trusted despite being guarded ourselves.

Challenge: Consider the most trusted relationships you have at work and think about why and how you’ve built that level of trust. How can you bring those elements into the other relationships that you have? And if you don’t want to, consider why that might be? Ask yourself what it is about those relationships that undermines the potential for trust.

3. Make time to get to know your wider networks

35% of professionals admit they don’t bother to build any kind of relationships with suppliers. And 22% said that they only build relationships to ensure that they’re treated well in return. Failing to build strong relationships at work – with colleagues, customers and suppliers – can lead to feelings of isolation and a disconnection from both the work that people are doing and the team in which they operate.

Challenge: Relationships are not about quid pro quo. Think about what actions you could start taking everyday to demonstrate respect for suppliers, customers and colleagues.

4. Make sure to celebrate the achievements of others

Just 24% of business professionals said that they regularly and frequently highlight a colleague’s achievements to a senior staff member, perhaps reflecting the competitive nature of workplaces today. Those in team leadership roles, middle managers and directors, were the most likely to do this at 33% each.

Challenge: Supporting colleagues and celebrating their successes needs to be more profound than sporadic offers of help and emails. Think about what actions you can start doing on a daily and weekly basis to see the relationship develop. For example: start by offering to help on a project, then taking the time to catch-up over coffee, asking for someone’s feedback on your work and highlighting an individual’s contribution with others.

5. Set aside regular time to support your colleagues

The C-suite dedicate the most time per week to supporting and developing their team at 3.2 hours – compared to an average of 2.1 hours. Middle managers and Directors both spend 2.4 hours per week supporting and developing their team (or roughly 30 mins per day).

Challenge: Consider how you use the time you spend every week supporting your team. How does it make you feel afterwards? What have you enjoyed and what you wished you’d had more time for? How can you make more of the time you have, to make it more fulfilling for you and your team?

6. When you need help, ask for it

Just 36% of respondents regularly and frequently ask for the support of team members where they feel their skills would add value. This behaviour was most common among junior managers (44%), but significantly less frequent amongst directors and C-Suite (24% and 17% respectively), reflecting how seniority can lead to less collaborative working styles.

Challenge: Think about occasions where a more collaborative approach to a project would have provided learning opportunities for you or colleagues. What stopped you from collaborating – time, knowledge, a lack of familiarity with people’s skills? Consider how you can make it easier for others to request your support and the relationships that you need to build so that you can involve others in your work.

7. Recognise the skills you can learn from others

Middle managers are building relationships with colleagues because it’s ‘part of their job’ rather than something they enjoy (53% vs. 45%). Altruism may well be lacking in the workplace as just a quarter of respondents believed that having a good relationship with their colleagues would help them learn and grow.

Challenge: If relationships feel like ‘part of the job’ to you, what is different about them and the relationships that you have in your personal life? Think about examples of support you’ve provided for friends and family, what did you expect from this? What one element of a close personal relationship could you start bringing to work to change the dynamic from something you have to do, to something you want to do?


This article is part of the Blueprint 10 Steps to Fulfilment at Work. To see more steps, please click here.

Originally published on Reward Guide. Also available with gifs on Medium