How to build real relationships at work

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Doing your job is only part of your job. The rest comes down to being seen, heard and known – none of this is possible without strong relationships. But the hybrid office has made building relationships even more difficult than before. In this article, the author offers helpful tips on how to spark conversations when you’re in the office and how to leverage those conversations when you see the same person again. As he writes, “breaking the silence is the most difficult step, because it is the easiest to overthink: Am I bothering this person? A voice in our head asks. What will this person think of me? Another voice questions. What am I even saying? A third voice adds. Soon, doubt sets in and the opportunity slips away. The more we facilitate breaking the silence, the more likely we are to do so. The good news is that opportunities to turn strangers into acquaintances are all around us, all the time.

Does entering the office seem awkward to you? It’s possible, especially if you’ve worked remotely or find yourself surrounded by more empty desks and chairs than people at work. Instead, the experience may start to feel a lot like the first day at school, but every day: Where should I sit? What should I say? How do I make friends?

Building professional relationships can feel even more overwhelming if you’re introverted or new to your organization, especially if all of your other colleagues already know each other three-dimensionally. But, as I learned from interviewing over 500 professionals from all industries and job types for my book The unspoken rules, building relationships in a hybrid environment is easier than it looks. It all starts with breaking the otherwise overwhelming and unhelpful advice of “Get out there!” in smaller steps that anyone can follow:

Step #1: Break the silence

This is the hardest step because it’s the easiest to overthink: Am I bothering this person? A voice in our head asks. What will this person think of me? Another voice questions. What am I even saying? A third voice adds. Soon, doubt sets in and the opportunity slips away.

The more we facilitate breaking the silence, the more likely we are to do so. The good news is that opportunities to turn strangers into acquaintances are all around us, all the time.

  • Working in an office with a “hoteling” or “hot desking” model where employees can choose where they sit? Try to position yourself near high traffic areas such as entrances, meeting rooms, kitchens and bathrooms. It can make it easier for you to meet people, make eye contact, nod, smile, and say “Hi” or “Hello”, that’s how relationship building begins.
  • Invited to a meeting, a town hall, a happy hour or an event? Try arriving a minute early, standing or sitting next to a stranger who doesn’t seem busy, make eye contact, hold out your hand and say, “Hi, I don’t think we’ve met met. I am _______. Delighted to meet you!”
  • Just finished a meeting? Overcome the urge to rush immediately and instead approach someone and blurt out an “I’m _______”, followed by an “I loved your comment on _______”.
  • Traveling for work? Try asking, “Does anyone want to share a ride?” and use carpool time to spark a conversation.
  • Do you have a little time before entering the office? Try messaging a colleague you’ve only met virtually and say, “I’ll be in the office tomorrow. I’d love to put a face to a name if you’re around!

These opportunities aren’t just strategies for the introverted or the timid. These are the secrets of the most effective relationship builders. Take a look around before your next meeting and you’ll quickly realize, for example, that the time some people bury themselves in their phones is also the time others build relationships.

Step 2: Change “Hi” to “Hello again”.

The first time you do something is always uncomfortable. The second time is always easier. If you’ve said “hello” to a stranger, you’ve already passed the trickiest step and given yourself permission to say “hello” again. This is your chance to turn acquaintances into allies.

  • Do you have a moment when you return to your computer? Consider sending an email like, “Thank you for this fun conversation. Love that we’re both _______. Looking forward to bumping into each other again and hopefully working together soon.
  • See them in the hallway? Smile and let out a “Hi again!” then follow up on whatever you discussed, whether it’s “How was the wedding?” or “How was the presentation?”
  • See them in a group call? Send them a message with a “Nice to see you again” or send them a private message of encouragement if they are fumbling on their words.
  • Find information that might be relevant to them? Forward the website, email, podcast, video, article or white paper with a “I just came across this and it reminded me of our conversation on _______”.
  • Find an opportunity that might interest them? Share it with a “I was invited to this event and thought of you. Check it out if you are interested.
  • Meet two people who could help each other? Offer an introduction by saying, “Have you met _______? She is too _______. Let me know if it would be helpful to chat and I can ask her if she’s interested. »

Step 3: Change “Hello again” to “Let’s chat”.

Most people you meet professionally will remain acquaintances. It’s natural. After all, we only have a limited number of hours in a day and a limited number of relationships that we can maintain at any one time. But, when we meet the select few who are several steps ahead of us and eager to pay, we have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and avoid them. Here are four options for turning allies into mentors:

  • Need a second opinion? Try asking them to input saying, “I work on _______ and would like to know your views on _______ since you are the expert on _______.
  • Don’t know which way to go? Try asking them tips saying, “I’m trying to _______ and would like your advice on _______. Could you have a few minutes to chat? »
  • Want to follow in their footsteps? Try asking them story saying, “I’d like to follow in your footsteps given _______. Could you have a few minutes to chat? I am available at the following times…”
  • Are you working on a project that intersects with their interests and expertise? Try asking them participation saying, “I am recruiting advisors to guide the management of _______. I immediately thought of you.

Step 4: Turn “Let’s talk” into “Let’s build a relationship”.

Some people you meet will become “mentors” who will provide advice. Others will become “godfathers” who open doors. This person has the power to invite you to closed meetings, drag you into high-profile projects, and even advocate for your promotion.

Meet someone senior who seems invested in you and your career?

  • First, try to share your Goals. For example, “As I reflect on where I would like to be in five years, I would like to follow in your footsteps and _______. What is your advice on what I should start doing, stop doing, and keep doing to achieve such a goal? »
  • Then try to share your progress. For example, “I just got my performance review and wanted to let you know that it ended up saying exactly what we said and discussed. My manager told me _______. Next term, I plan to _______. No need to answer – just wanted to update you and thank you for _______.
  • Along the way, try sharing some of your struggles as well. For example, “I was thinking about _______ and I feel like I could have done a better job of _______. Am I thinking about it the right way, or what would you do differently if you were me? »

. . .

As the son of a single immigrant mother who spent his career working in a sewing factory, I was always told to put my head down and let my hard work speak for itself. But, having unpacked the differences between professionals who build fulfilling careers and professionals who stumble and don’t know why, I now have a different perspective: In the corporate world, doing your job is just part of his job. The rest comes down to being seen, heard and known – none of this is possible without strong relationships.

While not every relationship you foster will lead to a long-term relationship, you will at least have another friendly face at your next meeting, another person to share your ideas with, and another person to call on. if needed. Make your next visit to the office more than just a commute.

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