At Tell Jane, we speak at length about the benefits of creating workplaces where people feel like they belong; whether that’s through focussing on inclusive recruitment, cultivating psychologically safe environments, cracking down on microaggressions, tackling racial inequity or perfecting proactive listening.

These are all critical practices for developing company cultures with inclusivity at their heart, but they also serve a much more fundamental purpose – they all help to build healthy relationships.

Why is building relationships at work so important?

We spend one-third of our lives at work. So, why would you not want to make the effort to build good relationships that make your valuable time at work enjoyable for you and your colleagues?

According to analysts at Gallup, those who have a good friend in the workplace are more likely to be happy in their jobs. And the more comfortable co-workers are with each other, the more confident they are in voicing opinions, offering ideas and collaborating.

The resulting productivity is not only good for business, but further boosts group morale and stifles toxic behaviours.

How do I build healthy work relationships?

When you think of the best friends in your life, it’s likely those relationships took some time to build. However, here’s our top tips on how you can make a jump start in cultivating better connections with your colleagues:

Develop your people skills – These are sometimes mislabelled as “soft” skills but emotional intelligence and personal attributes, such as an ability to show empathy, being patient and even a sense of humour, are key to fostering trusting and respectful relationships.

Perfect active listening – People respond better to those who truly listen to them. This particular people skill involves giving your complete focus to what someone says, not just the literal meaning of their words but what they’re really trying to say. Utilising this skill in regular one-to-one reviews with your team members will help them feel valued, plus you’ll gain insightful feedback.

Be respectful – Value the views and ideas of your colleagues and welcome diverse opinions. We all hold implicit assumptions, judgements and biases that can distort our perspectives, but by working to dismantle these we can build inclusive and enriching work environments where everyone feels like they belong.

Be willing to learn – The boss isn’t always right! Maintaining a positive attitude towards educating yourself and being willing to learn from others will help your team members feel more confident to give their point of view.

Prioritise clear communication – The more effectively and transparently we communicate with those we work with, the more positive and successful our relationships will be. This is especially important in the current challenging times, with many employees still on furlough and mass remote working, when your people will be hungry for clear and trustworthy information.

Show a little kindness – Simple acts like making a cup of coffee for a colleague, taking the time to say “good morning” to your team or asking how someone is create an upbeat atmosphere and lay the groundwork for constructive conversations. Studies also show that kindness isn’t just reciprocated, but is also passed forward creating a positive ripple throughout an entire organisation.

Be appreciative – Everyone likes to feel like they’re doing a good job and that their contributions are valued. Some genuine praise, either vocalised in team meetings or one-to-one reviews, or written in emails, goes a long way in developing good working relationships.

Provide space – Nobody likes to be micro-managed! Give your employees room to complete their projects and use their own initiatives. It’s clear that autonomy in the workplace is linked to an increase in job satisfaction and positive relationships.

Be clear about unacceptable behaviour – Part of building healthy relationships in the workplace is knowing what is and is not acceptable behaviour. Your team members will respect being made aware of the rules and how they can report incidences of bullying, harassment or discrimination. If you’ve worked to foster good relationships, people should feel comfortable to come forward when such issues occur allowing you to address the problems quickly.

Manage your own boundaries – Sometimes a working relationship can impair productivity, especially if a colleague begins to monopolise your time. Look after yourself by setting boundaries and managing how much time you devote to social interactions at work. It’s important to get this balance right because, as a manager, you lead by example and your personal policy on this will serve as a yard stick for other interactions within your team.


At Tell Jane, our skilled HR practitioners partner with your business to support and manage a variety of people, organisational and cultural strategies, including how to build better working relationships. Get in touch to find out more by emailing me at


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