5 Fun Ways to Get to Know Your Colleagues, So You Can Be Happier at Work

Mar 25, 2015 - Joe Matar
You probably spend a lot of time with your colleagues. In fact, most people spend more time with their coworkers than with their families, a report from Globoforce found. Despite the amount of time you spend with coworkers, you likely only see the side of their personality that they allow you to see. Right or wrong, we evaluate others based on first impressions and surface tension. If we don’t make an effort to know them better, we may end up misjudging the folks around us. Think about the coworker you don’t understand, have a difficult time working with, or simply don’t like. They may seem rude or unpleasant. But what could be going on behind the scenes? Maybe they have a sick family member, or an important personal relationship is crumbling. Perhaps they’re struggling in their job. Experiences and circumstances impact who we are, how we interpret the world and, ultimately, how we behave. Though we try to separate our personal and professional lives, we often bring our own perspectives and emotional baggage to the workplace. Understanding your coworkers and building relationships based on understanding can be crucial to job satisfaction and career growth. Eighty-nine percent of respondents in the Globoforce study said that their workplace relationships impact their overall quality of life. Those who reported having many friends at work felt more connected to their companies, and were almost three times more likely to say they loved their jobs. Although it may be easier to write a coworker off as rude or unmotivated, building a relationship and working with them respectfully will create a better working environment. You might even make a friend along the way. Here are some ideas to help you build better relationships with co-workers. (Click here to tweet these ideas.)

Listen more, talk less

We often get so caught up in getting our own point across we forget that listening is half of the communication equation. Actively listen to your coworkers. Let them explain their opinion and reasoning. Repeat important things they say back to them to show you’re engaged in what they have to say.

Say thanks

Saying “thank you” may seem like second nature, but we sometimes forget to be appreciative of our peers. Whether they’re just doing their job, or even if they complained the entire time you worked on a project together, saying “thank you” can make a lasting impression. For coworkers who go above and beyond, show your gratitude with a thank-you note, coffee run, or another creative token of appreciation. You might even consider a peer-to-peer bonus program. Here’s an example: Each month at The Bouqs Company, the online flower delivery service I founded, employees can give one another $25 gift cards, for any reason at all. It makes people feel great to be recognized by the people around them for their hard work.

Join the party

Join your coworkers for lunch on Tuesday or happy hour on Thursday. Spending time outside the office allows people to relax, and open up about things they may not share at work. You could gain some insight into your coworkers’ behaviors, while building stronger relationships.

Resolve conflicts

If you feel like there’s a conflict between you and a coworker, don’t avoid them. Unspoken conflicts can only be suppressed for so long before they erupt. Instead, be proactive and have a professional discussion about the problem. Determine steps needed to resolve the situation, and follow them together. Part of being a team is committing to work with, not against, one another. You may agree to disagree, but do so with respect. Instead of looking at your differences negatively, look for advantages in the unique strengths each of you brings to the table.

Get personal

Finally, work hard to get to know coworkers beyond light office chit-chat. Share who you are in a genuine way. Talk about what’s important to you in your life — even your dreams and fears. And be sure to ask about your colleagues’ dreams, too. Seeing you open up might inspire your coworkers to do the same. By building real, personal bonds, you’ll build trust and understanding that will get you through rough patches in your professional journey together. You would be surprised what you can learn when you make an effort to dig deep and really get to know someone. Your rude, bossy coworker could be sporting that hard outer shell to guard her secret sensitive side. The shy, quiet guy might have a passionate mind with elaborate ideas brewing below the surface. You’ll never know if you don’t initiate meaningful conversations and open yourself up to building relationships. It’s risky, yes. It might feel a bit odd at first. But it will absolutely and completely be worth it. How do you build relationships with your coworkers? John Tabis is the founder and CEO of The Bouqs Company, a cut-to-order online flower delivery service. Connect with John and @TheBouqs on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.