Each of us is given one life. What do we seek out of it? Is a meaningful life most important? Or is a happy one? That’s a debate for another post (and one that’s been the subject of much research over the years). Setting that discussion aside, if we were to focus on happiness, what is it that truly makes us happy?
The most comprehensive study on this topic tells us:
"Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period."
That’s a direct quote from Robert Waldinger, psychiatrist and current director of the Harvard study of Adult Development, the longest running study on emotional well-being in history. As reported in Inc. magazine, this 80-year Harvard study began during the Great Depression and tracked the same participants, and ultimately their children, to amass data on physical, mental and emotional health over time.
And it’s more than happiness, it’s health, too. Waldinger also said, “The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80."
In the workplace, we can’t control the quality of relationships for our employees. But we can influence the ability for people to form better, deeper and more satisfying relationships with their colleagues.
Here are three tips to create an environment for better relationships at work.
- Help alleviate unconscious bias.
Part of our human nature is the unconscious biases we carry with us. The biggest challenge with these biases is we are truly unaware of them – until they are called to our attention. The best way to reveal these biases to ourselves and then overcome them is through relationships with others we might hold those biases against. Structure teams to encourage a mix of skills, backgrounds and abilities, not teams of people that “look like me” in terms of education, etc. Collaborating together to achieve an important goal reveals the benefits of “other and different.”
- Encourage interaction across boundaries.
The nature of work today – informal, somewhat temporary teams focused on a project – already breaks down the silos of geography, team, and department. Further encouraging interaction across those boundaries through virtual social activities or other mechanisms helps deepen and sustain relationships as teams break apart at project end.
- Foster trust.
No relationship can last without trust. One of the most effective ways to foster trust is through simple expressions of gratitude. Knowing my work is seen, appreciated, and valued by others communicates the trust others have in me. Similarly, being able to share my gratitude and appreciation with others has similar impact.
How do you build relationships in the workplace? What methods do you use to help others build relationships with colleagues?
As Globoforce’s Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. He is a leader in the WorkHuman movement and the co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and his articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.