Coworkers in office

7 Ways To Manage Coworker Relationships That You Need To Know

Art work showing Coworkers in office

7 Fundamentals Of Effective Coworker Relationships You Need To Know

All workplace relationships may seem transactional on the surface, but at the core, each involves understanding human behaviours and the underlying reasons for these behaviours. If we can fathom why a person is acting in a particular way, it becomes easier for us to control our reactions. This particular trait is most useful in building peer-coworker relationships.

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But it is not easy to build relationships at work. It took me quite a few years to accept this reality, internalise it and then use it to my advantage in the corporate world.

My Early Year Fallacy

Before I move ahead, I have a confession to make.

When I entered the corporate world about 22 years back in the project management field, I had the following thought process-

  • If I am good at my work, I should not care what other people think.
  • It’s not fair that when I speak to certain people, they do not respond, but if my boss intervenes things get done.
  • My colleagues should give the same importance to my tasks as they give to theirs.

Now when I look back, I realise how immature I was.

Team members holding hands

Many thanks to my mentors and bosses, who made sure that these lessons came early in my work life. And because of these work lessons, I have had amazing working relationships with my colleagues & coworkers. These have proved beneficial not only for me and for them but the organization as well.

As you go through this list, some may sound idealistic and right out of a management textbook. But believe me, all these worked for me every time. And people who have worked with me will vouch for that.

This Is How You Build Amazing Coworker Relationships.

1. Make your Own Opinions:

Lady thinking

Opining is very common in the corporate world as we all like to carry through the perceptions /opinions handed over to us. Whether it is a person’s way of working, attitude or general reputation, we all like to know what our coworker is all about rather than know about the person.

I changed my approach and started looking at people with a fresh perspective. It does not mean that I ignore the noise around the person. But I use that constructively to alter my communication so that I can get across my point.

E.g., As a part of project management, I have also set up sites which include site construction & process migrations from the old site to the new site. In such projects, the technology & infrastructure teams are always at loggerheads with each other. In such a situation, my own experience with these team members helped me to navigate some difficult conversations and hence project timelines.

This particular trait is extremely helpful even when selecting your team members. Want to know more about it, read my blog on 5 Essential Life Lessons you Need To Know.

2. Believe In your Co-worker & Calibrate Priorities:

Coworkers discussing priorities with post it

Believing in people corroborates the point made above. The benefits of effective working relationships in developing and maintaining a project team are most evident. Especially in the role, I played in the corporate world of working with people from different streams to manage large-scale projects.

Everyone has their priority list & every time it may not match yours. When they don’t do or delay the work, which seems to be important from your perspective, pause & reflect rather than react.

When your coworker or colleague tells you they are too “busy”, it’s not a reflection of their schedule. It’s a reflection of your spot on their schedule. It’s just a mismatch of priority list & maybe a discussion over coffee will help… it always helps :-).

If you genuinely want to work with a person, listen to your heart & mind and not all the voices from all people around you. An open mindset is a key that makes a difference. But, that’s not all.

3. Respect Your Co-worker’s Capabilities:

Colleagues in a meeting

I have always lived by one principle- If someone can do something that you cannot do, respect that person for that capability. And Hierarchy has no role to play in this equation.

I have had my female counterparts handling operations and doing night shifts. And these are women with small kids or elderly parents at home. I have huge respect for them and the work they are doing.

Going back to my site set up an example, I have worked with this amazing lady responsible for our office site constructions worldwide. She used to negotiate site contracts, handle contractors and vendors and manage them like a pro. Simply astounding.

But as personalities, she and I were very different. In my first project with her, she told me she does not believe in project plans. The only thing she agreed to was giving me dates which I can put in my project plan.

You can imagine how our initial interactions would be – complete fireworks. I with my early myopic attitude and she with her rigid no documentation stance. I used to get frustrated, angry and helpless, but I always had immense respect for the capability she brought to the table. And I was not ready to give up.

So I changed my approach and started putting dates myself and getting her to buy in. Slowly, she realised that I was making an effort, and she reciprocated, and the wall between us started crumbling down.

We must have done about 25-30 sites and much smaller projects over the span of 15 years we worked together and are very good friends today.

Therefore, Respect & Re-align and see how people work for you with you together. Our values need not match always, but we still need to believe in another person’s capability. And this can be a crucial work lesson for us. Think about it.

4. Applaud All Efforts- Big Or Small

coworkers applauding

The life of a project lead revolves around the project team. Each member plays a crucial role in meeting the client’s deadline. There are so many things that your colleagues do that may go unnoticed as they are considered a part of their job. Do we appreciate such efforts or take these for granted? A word of appreciation goes a long way in motivating any individual even if it’s for their routine to-dos.

So don’t hesitate to send a thank you note or text your appreciation. And always appreciate your co-worker’s efforts in front of their bosses. When you appreciate your colleagues, in front of their seniors, it speaks volumes about you and your respect goes up.

5. Stay away from Office Politics & Camps

Lady listening to gossip

This is not only a critical Self-care tip but also an important work principle for me. Just stay away from any groups or conversations that may impact your working relationships with any of your colleagues. This also stems from a strong belief I have in people and their capabilities to deliver.

I believe people react to you based on how you interact with them. Suppose you are fair, approachable & respectful, most toxic of people will turnaround. And even if they don’t, you have to limit your interactions with them to work. That’s it.

I have had difficult colleagues becoming best of friends after multiple, patient interactions. The only thing I focussed on was my respect for them as master of their fields & what they brought to the table.

I feel this is especially true for all the women leaders as they get emotionally impacted by all the office groups, which may impact their mental health. For more tips for women leaders read my blog – Self Care For A Woman Leader.

6. Be Direct

having a conversation with coworker

I always prefer to be direct with my colleagues & coworkers rather than beat around the bush. The issue may be anything – my team member’s behaviour, a missed timeline or a nasty email.

Though it’s very tempting to click on that reply button or retort, I rather pick up the phone and talk. And that’s what I have always encouraged my team to do. It always helps to understand the other person’s perspective and triggers before getting into an unnecessary war of words.

7. We Rather Than YOU

team holding hands

Have you tried to frame your question as “How can WE do this?” rather than “How can You do this?” If not, try it and see the difference.

It definitely worked in my field of project management. Many times, I used to call my technology colleagues and just ask them how can “we” get our server on time. And it worked. This also means that we share the applause and if there is a timeline missed, we work together to find alternatives.

Coworkers in a meeting

The blame game is a part of corporate life and is difficult to escape. But as you grow up the ladder, you will realise that if you collaborate and work well with your coworker, the need for a blame game will not arise.

And this is possible only with mutual respect, appreciation and an inner desire to work with people to make things happen. The outcome in such cases is simply magical.

If you agree with my thoughts then don’t forget to share this blog with your coworkers.

A big Thank You to my sister Dr Minni Chadha for this beautiful artwork.

This Is How You Actually Build Awesome Coworker Relationships.

More Management Posts

Rippy Gauba
Rippy Gauba

I am a working professional and a mom of 2 teen daughters. I realised my passion for writing during the pandemic and thus My Ripple Effect was born. Though my corporate commitments take a major part of my day, I am very particular about spending quality time with my family, my pet CoCo, painting and blogging.

I write on Mindset, Motivation & Management. These are everyday, practical tips I picked up from my personal & professional life. These learnings have impacted my life as an individual, as a parent and as a working professional. I am sure these will be useful for you too and help create Ripples of change in your lives & that’s my intention.

Welcome Aboard!!

17 thoughts on “7 Ways To Manage Coworker Relationships That You Need To Know”

  1. Excellent piece of writing….
    Totally agree with this point that you are as good as the people around you, working with you…you can achieve amazing results if you have a good team and that’s only possible if as a head/boss you appreciate them & also show that appreciation in front of other people…
    And over the years without realising…colleagues turn into friends ….and this friendship is based on mutual respect & appreciation….
    Good job done…Rippy

    1. Dear Vikrant Thank you for sharing your feedback and I’m glad it resonated with you. These are my learnings after working for more than 22+ years in the corporate world.  I am glad it resonated with you. Have a great day, and please do keep on sharing your valuable feedback on my blogs. I really look forward to that.

      Thank you

    1. Dear Dr Anshu,
      Thank you for sharing your feedback and I’m glad it resonated with you.
      Have a great day, and please do keep on sharing your valuable feedback on my blogs.I really look forward to that.

  2. Dr.Susmita Saxena

    Very practical approach to a complex issue. A lot depends upon the person’s mindset one is dealing with. Maybe diplomacy would be the “wonder”word to maintain congenial relationships! Difficult for straightforward people to remain popular amongst colleagues!!
    Tips are worth a try though!!
    Thank you for addressing the issue!

    1. Dear Dr Susmita,
      Thank you for sharing your feedback on my blog. Believe me, I have always been a very straightforward person and still am. I have just learnt how to put my point across without the other person feeling victimised.
      There’s no point in putting up an act when it’s not you. And when you are honest with your colleagues, I guess they respect that there will be no backstabbing as they know. 
      Have a great day, and please do keep on sharing your valuable feedback on my blogs. I really look forward to that.

      Have a good day!

  3. Very effective thoughts which people should ponder upon and apply in their day to day life to make their workplace a better place

    1. Dear Lokesh
      Thank you for sharing your feedback and I’m glad it resonated with you.
      Have a great day, and please do keep on sharing your valuable feedback on my blogs.I really look forward to that.

  4. Another interesting and very important topic which you have addressed. We spend one third time of our life at are work place so it should be stress free.
    I feel to have a cordial atmosphere….you should be direct and applaud all efforts big or small as you have mentioned.

    Then only we will succeed as a team

    A very interesting and useful write up.

    1. Dear Dr Qury,
      Thank you for sharing your feedback on my blog and yes having a cordial and stress free atmosphere at work is only possible if we have a cordial and friendly relationship with our colleagues.

      Have a great day !

    2. Thank you for sharing your feedback on my blog and yes having a cordial and stress free atmosphere at work is only possible if we have a cordial and friendly relationship with our colleagues.

  5. Very practical and realistic topic for all professional at there individual workplaces …. the keys mantra are different to follow under all situations in the beginning .. but better to change and realise as early as possible .. for peace of mind and professional growth ..
    very interesting write up ..

    1. Dear Dr Manasi,
      Thank you for sharing your feedback and I’m glad it resonated with you.
      Have a great day, and please do keep on sharing your valuable feedback on my blogs.I really look forward to that.

  6. Relationships have always demanded time, energy, effort and sincerity for being in the best of shapes be it at home or at office.
    The dynamics get even more more tricky at work places where we have to deal with people of different backgrounds, thought processes, heirarchy, opinions and priorities.
    The blog addresses to these complex interactions at offices in a simple yet effective way.
    I would like to add one thing though, we must offer genuine help to our colleagues and be very careful in our choice of words while expressing our views or opinions. This 2 things really easens a lot of relationships.
    Looking forward for your next writeup 🙂

    1. Dear Dr Vivek,
      Thank you for sharing your feedback on my blog and adding 2 more important points. Genuineness in relationships and communication can make or break relationships.
      Have a great day, and please do keep on sharing your valuable feedback on my blogs.I really look forward to that.

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