Building solid relationships at work takes, well, work. In most cases, you don’t just walk in one day and immediately become the leader of the pack. That’s because most relationships, personal and professional, need to be built on a foundation of trust.

We spend a lot of time on Active Care discussing how to help you land a job or how to help employers navigate the hiring and compliance process. But as we all know, turnover can take a big bite out of any company’s bottom line or employee morale. So it’s also necessary to promote positive in-office behavior.

Trust is a core element to any relationship because it demonstrates your reliability, loyalty, and honesty. Obviously, these are key qualities in personal relationships, but they are also crucial in professional gigs because, let’s be honest, you probably spend more time with your co-workers than you do your partner.

Establishing, building and maintaining trust is tricky, though. There are minefields everywhere in corporate relationships so we reached out to an expert in the field of team building and peer discovery, Amy Breuer, Chief Communication Officer of Dickens Communication & Consulting, for advice. Here’s some snippets from our interview:

Active Screening (AS): Why trust? Why is that the key component in relationships?

Amy Breuer (AB): I think it’s important to note that while building solid relationships can be extremely hard, it’s important to remember that trust is forever fragile and can be shattered in a split second. Broken relationships can affect anyone’s physical and mental well-being.

AS: So how do you begin to develop trust? Especially if you’re considered ‘damaged goods’ in your office?

AB: Get the facts and ask questions. Getting caught up in the drama can be really easy and assuming the worst is even easier. I love the quote by Stephanie Dowrick: “We tend to judge ourselves by our good intentions and others by their actions.” Very true!  Making sure the information you have is accurate will allow you to put your best foot forward in handling any difficult conversation.

Have no information? Start asking questions to get to the root of the problem like “what specifically; how specifically; what would happen if, etc.,” to get the details.

AS: It’s so hard to not take things personally in work relationships and feel like a co-worker failed or betrayed you if something goes wrong. How can you overcome this?

AB: Put yourself in their shoes. Although it’s not very easy, look at the situation through another lens. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with it but rather appreciate a different perspective.

AS: Do you have some tools to use to try to do that? Because, as you said, putting yourself in another person’s shoes is not easy, particularly when  hurt feelings are involved.

AB: Be present and hear what the other person is saying. Many times we are so anxious to say what we need and/or feel that we’re not hearing what the other person is saying. Have you ever been a part of a conversation only later to ask, “What did you say, again?”

Stop thinking about what you want to say next, telling yourself stories or planning the rest of the day, and be present! During the course of any work day, everyone is doing more with less and we’re all busy. It’s okay to schedule time to deal with conflict so that you are mentally ready and present to handle the conversation.

AS: Okay, so say you try your best but the conversation just isn’t going as you’d hoped and you find yourself getting angry. What’s the solution? 

AB: Breathe and take a time out. The reality is that when you need all your mental capacity the most in dealing with difficult people and situations, you have it the least. To avoid the regret-factor, remember to take a time out, gather your thoughts and breathe before having those difficult conversations. Rather than exploding in the midst of all the cubicles, try taking a break and going for a quick walk around the building, even ask your fellow co-worker to come with. You may find that by the end of this quick break that you’re relationship is quickly getting back on track.

AS: Wouldn’t it just be easier to hammer out a quick email? 

AB: In such an automated society, it’s important to remember that as humans, we’re not perfect and that we’re each uniquely different in personality and style so cutting each other some slack from time to time may be necessary.  So… step away from the technology and get personal.

For more tips on how to be a better inter- and intra-office communicator check out these Active Care posts:

The Number One Strategy to Build Relationships 

How to Become THE Go-To Gal/Guy at Your Company… Or How NOT to be Maverick

Thanks to Amy Breuer for her dynamic insight and advice. Dickens Communication and Consulting specializes in people solutions designed to facilitate individual and organizational health. Click here to learn more about its services.

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