A member recently reached out to the Alumni Association for career help with this question: “How can I strengthen my personal relationships with coworkers, especially in instances where some don’t seem interested?” Executive coach Tracy Akresh Stone provided this expert advice:
Creating strong and collaborative relationships with coworkers can help you succeed and innovate at work. It is not always easy, as you spend a lot of time with coworkers, but you don’t get to choose who they are. The general rule of thumb to build relationships is to treat your coworkers as they want to be treated.
Be curious. What do they like to do? How do they act in meetings? What do they talk about doing outside of work? Begin observing, and then adapt and flex to their preferences. For example, if in a meeting your coworker is interested in getting down to business right away (before catching up or hearing about your kids), be sure to work first so they will be more ready and receptive to what you share later.
On the flip side, some styles prefer to build trust and engage in personal stories ahead of getting right to work. Engage first with those individuals on something they are interested in. Do they like to go to the gym? Do they like dogs? It’s always better if you can find an interest that you both share. Notice preferences and interests and then accommodate to their style. A little appreciation for how they interact and work will go a long way.