What’s your favourite approach to building relationships in the workplace? Was there an unexpected occasion where you found your relationship with a stakeholder being strengthened? Prethiba Esvary speaks to professionals from a range of workplace environments to understand how they build and nurture relationships at work.
“Have as much open and honest conversation as possible, hiding nothing. I also never let bad feelings fester. If I see disagreements boiling into ill will, I will encourage people to get together to talk.”
Edmond Yap, chief education guy, EduNation
“I believe if you are open and honest about yourself, it helps to show the other party – be it client, subordinates, or colleagues – that you are human like them, and helps them trust you.
“One year, when I was working on a leadership development re-design project with a new client, I found it really difficult to get her to trust me on my suggestions. It was frustrating as the design kept changing every time we talked. Eventually, I decided I needed to be candid with her.
“I was a bit hesitant as this was a key account, but I tactfully told her she was trying to put in too many things that would not be helpful to the development of the participants.
“Being honest with her was the best thing that happened in our relationship as we became good friends after the incident and shared a lot of opinions with each other.”
Rishen Philip, head of learning & growth, Leaderonomics
“One good approach is to have a no-agenda conversation, saying “How are you?” and then really listening without any filter, bias or hidden agenda. The second is to ask for feedback and then act on the recommendation given. When we act on given feedback, it shows we value the other person’s perspective. Also, this keeps the ego at bay.”
Joseph Tan, chief executive officer, Leaderonomics Good Monday
“In the financial planning industry, helping clients to solve their financial issues without a hidden agenda is the best approach to building long-lasting professional and trusting relationships. Clients who can see your sincerity to help them will not hesitate to seek your advice and will appreciate your relentless and diligent efforts in servicing them.
“There was an instance where my wife’s best friend and her husband consulted me on their financial issues and will preparation. As I always practise keeping all my clients’ requirements confidential, this came naturally to me, even in this scenario. My wife only knew that the couple were engaging me for their financial planning.
“A few weeks later, when both the ladies met up, her best friend mentioned a few things to her with regard to their financial planning and was pleasantly surprised that my wife didn’t know anything. She had assumed that I would have shared certain things with my wife since she was my spouse and since my clients were both our best friends.
“For me, personal and professional relationships are two separate things, even if it involves people from my personal circle. It is not easy to disclose your financial woes to someone, yet clients share them with you because they trust you, and to be recognised as a trustworthy consultant is my ultimate achievement!”
Gunaseelan Kannan, licensed financial adviser
“My favourite approach when dealing with people is habit five from Stephen Covey’s excellent book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’. When I do this, it saves a lot of trouble as people are generally rational, and have a reason for what they are doing. So, when I understand their perspective, I can work out the middle ground and take a win-win approach.
“A few years ago, I was working with a major client in the power sector who was known for being difficult. I confess I was rather nervous about my first meeting with him, having heard horror stories from my colleagues. So, I took a bit of time to learn a bit about his background, and started the meeting by asking him how he ended up in his current position.
“He told me it was a long story, but I shrugged and said I had plenty of time, so he ended up telling me pretty much his whole life story – which in fact was very interesting, including working in places like Vietnam and Africa. It turned out that he was very frustrated with our consultancy due to several broken promises and poor delivery which had let him down.
“I worked hard to deliver everything we promised, and after about six months, he became very positive about our work and indeed proved to be an advocate for our services with his colleagues. Taking the time to understand his background, character and past experience helped me overcome the barriers and he ended up as a good client after all.”
Mark Lovatt, chief executive officer, Trident Integrity Solutions
“Always have heart in what you do because it shows through your actions. People can tell if you’re being sincere in creating or maintaining relationships.”
Michelle Boon, educator
“Always smile and greet colleagues sincerely. I am generally an observant person and would approach people with care – depending on their availability and mood – when I need to ask for help or ask questions. I also avoid cliques and gossip to maintain a cordial relationship with everyone.
“We once had a staff in my department that many of my colleagues avoid. One day, I was partnered up with her for a programme. Many people had said unpleasant things about her, especially her unfriendly demeanour, but I chose to ignore everything that I’d heard and work with her without any ill feelings. We ended up becoming good friends and that surprised many people at work.
Siti Naquiah Misro, prison officer
“Personally, the approach I appreciate is the culture of the bank that I’m working in. When your bosses always have your back, it just strengthens the relationship between you and your boss.”
Peter Boon, business development specialist
It’s safe to say that everyone has a different approach to building and nurturing workplace relationships. There is no one fixed way of doing this successfully, as each situation is unique, and our character, experiences, values and beliefs differ. What’s key is the effort we put in to sow the seeds of the relationship and ensure its sustainability for the sake of both personal and organisational success.
Related post: Engaging The Hearts And Minds Of Employees