Building healthy relationships in the workplace

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Building healthy relationships in the workplace is absolutely essential. It’s vital to know how to create and maintain strong workplace relationships to increase productivity and employee happiness. This article goes in depth explaining the concept.


In November 2018, the famous Google walkout occurred. Over 20,000 Google employees rallied together to protest misconduct, a lack of transparency, and sexual harassment. It was a momentous occasion for businesses in this decade. However, beyond walkouts happening with feet, there’s a much more rampant form going on every day- check-outs. Check-outs are often more dangerous than walkouts as they’re harder to notice. They occur with hearts and minds as employees protest quietly and subtly act a little against their organization’s goals. This action is what we refer to as disengagement.

To prevent check-outs, communication needs to be unblocked. Asking employees regularly about their opinions on seemingly mundane day-to-day decisions makes it easier to have difficult conversations when the time comes. 


“Success doesn’t mean there are no problems, it means there are better problems.”


Other helpful means to build effective communication in the workplace are given below:

  • The micro-yes – Asking short but important questions. It acts as a pacing tool and gives one a feeling of autonomy.
  • Data point – Give specifics of the things needed, and take out blur words. Convert these requirements to data points, both for positive and negative feedback.
  • Show impact – Describe exactly how the data points affect you. It helps to give a sense of meaning and logic between points.
  • End with a question – Ending interactions with questions makes them more open-ended. Ask for feedback regularly, don’t wait for feedback to be given to you, ask for it. Waiting for feedback is push feedback while asking for it is pull feedback.

Effective communication: Allying yourself with employees

One of the vital things needed for an organization to function properly is effective communication. Beyond the pulsing information about microaggressions, it’s important to know how communication should work in a company. 

Because of this, employees can build confidence, foster belonging, realize and develop their expertise and experience, grow trust, and support individuals in the workplace. 

We have a few tips that can help disrupt the negative effects of systemic inequity, historical oppression, personal biases, and cultural marginalization. Let’s take a look at a few.


Understand your strengths and weaknesses

Before placing your focus on fostering workplace relationships, a vital first step is to be familiar with your strengths and weaknesses. Growing relationship skills like active listening, conflict resolution, and communication are a great help in developing relationships in the workplace. Assess the positives you bring to the table in workplace relationships, and then the things you’re lacking in. An emotional intelligence (EI) evaluation can help with this phase. 


Invest in knowing people and pay attention to their ideas and words

Display genuine compassion and curiosity about the work and lives of employees and colleagues. Foster healthy relationships with as many as you can to ensure easy collaboration and advocacy. As they speak, ensure your presence is fully given, and that you’re listening. Be big on empathy and compassion even as they share their experiences or ideas.


Mirror the language used by employees to describe their identity

Take the time necessary to listen to employees, and learn how their names are pronounced. Pay attention to their pronouns and how they describe their identity. Finally, let the language used to describe themselves constantly be mirrored by you and other employees. This shows employees in your company that you care about them and are mindful of their desires.


Manage boundaries in the workplace


It’s important to make time for employees and colleagues, however too much can cause as much damage as too little. Oftentimes, work relationships can impede productivity, particularly when certain friends or friend groups start creating a monopoly of each other’s time. Setting boundaries is vital, as time for social interactions needs to be managed in the workplace.


Acknowledge key life milestones, cultural and religious holidays

Keep tabs on strategic moments vital to employees in the organization and ensure they’re recognized. If an employee celebrates Diwali, wish them a happy celebration. You can simply put up notes on the company’s intranet to acknowledge Indigenous People’s Day, Black History Month, Ramadan, Pride Month, Lunar New Year, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Tom Kippur, Dead History Month, Juneteenth, and many more.

Graduations, promotions, birthdays, weddings, and new births are great picks for you to acknowledge with a quick note. Alternatively, it’s vital to be there in tougher times like illnesses or deaths.

Employees that feel excluded, tokenized, or marginalized may seclude themselves by not contributing, refusing to show up, or staying mute.


Foster participation from each individual in your organization

Ask for feedback and ideas on projects you’re working on. Suppose you’re the head of a meeting or project, reinforce that you expect and encourage participation across the board. When you notice anyone hasn’t contributed, give them room to speak up whether there and then, or after the session is over.


Avoid office gossip

Gossip and office politics are major enemies of workplace relationships. If there’s a conflict between two or more individuals in your organization, encourage them to talk it out and solve it amicably. Speaking to other employees about it would only serve to amplify the issue, building mistrust and strife.


Be fully present at your workplace

With the numerous requirements and responsibilities of an average workday, it’s often like the day has gone by in a blink. You might feel you’re accomplishing more by multitasking throughout the day, handling your report during lunchtime, or replying to emails during company meetings. 

However, multitasking prevents your presence from being 100% at any given time. As you actively pay attention to your employees and colleagues, initiating conversations and building relationships, you’ll notice that building productive relationships in the workplace doesn’t have to take so much from you.


Identify and support non-participators

As stated earlier, employees that feel out of place may stick to the sidelines. As pertains to working in the remote space, employees that feel out of place may turn their videos off if they aren’t engaged or feel burned out. Take time to reach out to them and see how they can be supported or helped.


Acknowledge employees’ skills and expertise

Employees that have underrepresented identities tend to find their skills and expertise constantly held to higher standards and constantly questioned. Be intentional about acknowledging their talent, and ask for their ideas and opinions on work-related matters.

According to a study, about 2 of every 3 women and persons of color in the engineering sector had their proficiency constantly questioned, as opposed to 35% of white males. In a lot of these cases, after their work rate was questioned, they had their successes discounted. More so, the pressure was placed on them to take a back step for white males to take the lead, while being asked to recede to doing menial office work.

Understanding the presence of these biases, take it upon yourself to recognize when an employee’s ideas or expertise are questioned, and step in to acknowledge them while giving them the chance to shine.

When you’ve been called to give a presentation or speech, you could ask if a proficient colleague or employee could come with you to the podium.


Recognize employee achievements 

A major way for leaders to acknowledge the achievements or proficiency of team members and colleagues is to openly recognize their accomplishments. This can be carried out through various means like public awards or communication, or possibly something on a smaller scale like bringing it up in conversation.


Make employee voices heard

Utilize your platform effectively by amplifying the stories and ideas of employees. This could be done via presentations, marketing, product and service design, reports, vendor procurement and management, verbal storytelling, communications, and any other way your platform can be used to make new ideas and voices heard. Give credit to those voices and ideas, and heighten their status, while sharing influence

Notably, women -and particularly women of color – are more likely to get poor feedback quality. This makes it harder for them to grow as leaders and prevents them from being able to make necessary corrections.

Give opportunities for employees to share as experts in their field

In cases where you’ve been asked to give a presentation, you can consider taking a step back and giving your recommendation to an employee that isn’t usually allowed to speak.

However, it’s important to note that employees suffering from imposter syndrome or who have a lot on their plates in life, may not respond favorably to your invitation. You can give it another try, emphasizing the reason you desire their expertise. Also, if you’re asking an employee or colleague to take your place at an event which you’ll be profiting from, ensure they are paid well for their proficiency.

Pinpoint the skills and behaviors needed to demonstrate leadership and proficiency in roles

Establish ahead of time what behaviors and skills demonstrate proficiency and leadership in a role.

Tie feedback and progress to business and team goals, utilize the same criteria for every employee working in the role, and come up with a plan for everyone to work on career progression and improve their skill set. Also, ensure employees get great feedback on projects, leadership moments, and presentations.


Give subtle feedback as pertains to idea-sharing and presentations

Body language and facial expressions play a vital feedback role for employees and colleagues whether one is in a meeting or even a video call. Pay attention to what you’re communicating non-verbally. 

You could nod, show you’re processing their ideas, give an indication that you want more information, ensure they’re aware when you don’t get one of their points, and many more.




For any organization that is intent on boosting growth and productivity, investing in building workplace relationships is one of the first places to start. To ensure cohesiveness and fluidity in data transfer from one employee to another, organizations need to focus on creating structures that improve the state of relationships from the lowest to highest levels of authority. That said, there’s a lot more to building relationships in the workplace and a great place to start is here.

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