Five Tips to Build Relationships With Your Colleagues


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This month at Talent Formula, you will learn all about the delicate balance of the do’s and don’ts at work. Wondering about the etiquette for a shared work fridge? Don’t eat my yogurt… read on!

Work Relationships: Friends In The City

Your new BFF… #not

work friends

Congratulations, you have landed your dream job! With this new experience comes a new set of colleagues. Now what?

Here are My Top 5 Tips To Join The New Tribe:

1. Hey Newbie, Sit With Us!

Forget channeling your inner Mean Girl aka Regina George. Do sit with your new colleagues at lunch! Let’s face it, everyone must eat, so food is a great ice breaker. I strongly believe that you learn a lot about someone by their food choices.

I once had a colleague who definitely shared my love for coffee and Thai green curry, but not my love of vegetarian Lebanese food. Our Thai lunches and coffee runs were a great way for us to have a commonality and talk about other things aside from work. Just make sure you don’t mistakenly eat someone’s soy yogurt in the shared fridge – that would be a no no whether it’s your 1st day or not.

2. One Tribe

Have you seen that Oprah episode where the Black Eyed Peas surprised her with the flash mob? The one thing that those strangers had in common was they had the same vested interest. It can be sometimes difficult to join a new team, especially one that has been together for awhile and have worked on numerous projects. They are set in a particular way of communicating with each other, they know how each person takes their coffee, and that so and so hates a particular font, etc. How do you become one of them?

I’m not suggesting losing yourself and all that you uniquely bring – they did hire you for a reason. My ultimate reco is – show them what you can bring to the table and how you are an integral part of the puzzle. Stephen Covey said it best, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” Seek to understand their language and team culture before trying to jump in. I can assure you, in a couple of weeks you’ll be included in that Monday morning coffee run and Friday Happy Hour!

3. Your New Colleague Isn’t Your New BFF

I know I mentioned Happy Hour in the previous tip. Yes, you can participate; however, please do keep in mind that these are still work colleagues and not besties from university. So have fun, but not too much fun! You want to be known as someone who can play (and hold their liquor) but at the same time still be respected when in the boardroom the next day.

There will be certain situations where you might be faced with with a very fine line. I once had a client who’s brand was in the alcoholic beverages category. At every event, he would practically shove a drink in my hand despite my protests that our company policy is not to drink at events. At the same time I didn’t want to offend this client, so the work around? I would take the bottle, dump it in the washroom and ask the bartender to fill it with ginger ale. I also didn’t take a sip unless he would come in for the obligatory “Cheers!” every once in awhile. Problem solved – I didn’t break any company rules and also didn’t offend the client!

4. To “Friend” Or Not To “Friend”, That Is The Question

Let’s talk about social media. So your new boss sent you a friend request on Facebook? What would you do? Well, I would go with the flow of what is expected at work but with limitations. For example, if this is the “norm” within your department, I would grant the friend request but put the individual in my limited profile list. That way, you are still a team player but not all of your weekend was broadcasted on your boss’ news feed. Not that you have something to hide, but no one you report to (or who reports to you!) needs to see the picture you uploaded of your new yoga mat.

Still confused? Well let’s think of it this way shall we?
Facebook – consider this as a “the bbq” of your online life. So you have to be comfortable to have the people on here over at your house for a bbq.

Twitter – the “cocktail party” of social media. On this list, you must be comfortable to have a conversation with these people at a cocktail party.

LinkedIn – this is the “work networking event or meeting”. The people on this list is the professional part of your personal brand. Ensure the updates on here are only work related and not tied to your Facebook or personal Twitter.

Instagram – I’m still on the fence with this one. Personally, mine is open and linked to my Twitter and Facebook so when I post I certainly keep those filters in mind.

5. It’s Not Goodbye, It’s See You Later

What happens when you leave a company? Is there a rule that you suddenly can’t be friends with your ex-colleagues? That depends – are they still into you? You, into them?

My advice is to ensure that whoever you choose to keep as personal friends is to treat them that way. Regardless of the reasons on why you (or they) parted ways with the company, you know that one of the benefits of the experience was making a new friend or two along the way. You never know, one day you might be the one applying and they’re the ones doing the hiring. It is a small world after all!

We are all human

At the end of the day, we’re all human. For many centuries and lifetimes, relationships have been built, broken, re-kindled or sustained.

As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I believe that as long as you’re being your authentic self, the relationship with colleagues will be built in time, with mutual respect and understanding. Whether you see them everyday or you only see them once a year if you work remotely, it shouldn’t affect the way you interact.

Share With Us

Do you have other tips to share in how you can build a professional relationship with colleagues? What are some creative ways in how you can do this in a remote work setting?

Grace Lanuza
Grace’s 10+ years in the ever-changing world of experiential marketing taught her the importance of having the right team in the right roles. Expanding her passion for people, Grace recently grew her career in the talent acquisition and employment branding space managing campus recruiting across North America for Mosaic, a top marketing agency. You can expect Grace’s unique voice to be found blogging about Gen Y hiring, motivating your team, interviewing tips and tricks, and best practices to keep remote employees engaged.

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  • chelsea

    Thanks Grace for this post. In today’s world where boundaries are often blurred with social media and work social events, these are 5 great rules to building professional relationships. I’ve made some wonderful friends from work but we built our friendship on a foundation of mutual professional respect.

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