Your Success Depends on the Strength of Your Relationships

by Amy Steinberg Published Jun 5, 2018 Last updated Jun 5, 2018

Why Do Relationships Matter?

The data is in: the way we form relationships at work affects the success we find in our careers. To begin, Positive Psychology Program has pointed out an important truth about what engages people at work:

A recent U.S. survey highlighted that the top engagement condition for 79 percent of respondents was their relationship with co-workers (SHRM, 2015).

Thus, it is already important that relationships be positive between colleagues. Furthermore, this engagement extends to a connection to productivity: employees and employers alike are convinced that negative relationships at work contribute to a loss of productivity, and the opposite is also true, according to the Harvard Business Review:

A positive workplace… improves people’s relationships with each other and amplifies their abilities and their creativity. It buffers against negative experiences such as stress, thus improving employees’ ability to bounce back from challenges and difficulties while bolstering their health. And, it attracts employees, making them more loyal to the leader and to the organization as well as bringing out their best strengths.

Both for employees who wish to advance and prosper and for employers who are concerned with the business success of the company, much of your opportunity for advancement comes down to the strength of the relationships.

Creating Strong Relationships

Identify Potential New Friends to Form Weak Ties: When you are disappointed with your current network, the solution is not merely to reach out anonymously on a variety of social media platforms. Instead, be strategic: who might be a single person you could engage in a personal way who would, thus, give you organic access to their friends and acquaintances. TechCrunch identifies the importance of “weak ties,” or the important people that you know at one remove, like friends of the family or friends of your friends. You are more likely to get connected through a friend than through a more impersonal means, so think about which one or two new connections might make the connections you need.

Diversify Your Networking: Many people favor the same kinds of networking events, and while that can be great for building relationships, at some point there are very few new connections to be made. Consider breaking out of the typical networking for your field, be that leaving the internal happy hour of your company or the local business incubation meetings. Find meet-ups that are focused on people fundamentally different from you in order to get to know an adjacent field or to simply meet some folks who are outside your box.

Seek Collaborations or Small Favors: While trying to make a serious connection can be difficult with just a few words of small talk, if you are trying to forge new relationships, one of the best strategies is to have an ask. A large request makes people think you are overreaching, but small requests actually make people more likely to get to know you. Whether you’ve come up with a collaboration that is mutually beneficial, or if you’ve asked for a small favor (an email address of a person you need to contact, for instance), these small requests allow the person to feel good about working with you. Keeping the request small also allows them to not feel hassled by your needs.

Strengthening Current Relationships

Reach Out Before You Need Something: With people you already know, the opposite of the “small favor” rule applies: try to get in touch before you actually need something. All too often, old friends resurface just before they ask for investment money or someone’s free labor, so it’s better to keep reasonably frequent contact with anyone who could be helpful to your future, be it client-side or co-worker related.

Be The One Who Listens and Remembers: Along the same lines, you should be noting when someone mentions an upcoming birthday, a tough surgery, or a child’s big graduation. Be able to quickly and fluidly check in on the important things in someone’s life, even if they aren’t as big of a deal to you. This kind of concern works wonders for making you a person who is trusted and respected because you show that respect toward others by remembering what they’ve said.

Offer Better Work Than Expected: Whether it is a co-worker, a client, or someone who is unrelated to your business, it is a universal truth that relationship is forged when you turn in exemplary work. No one gets remembered and called forth for just finishing a project, completing even the most mundane of tasks to the best of your ability is a great way to strengthen relationships with your group members.

Do Favors Whenever You Can: Once in a while, an important person is going to ask something of you and being in a position to say yes is one of the best places to be. If you are always, for instance, working right up until a deadline with no potential wiggle room, the chance that you can help out a co-worker who really needs a quick hand is lower. That loss is also a reduction of relationship, even if it is completely reasonable to turn down the ask. Becoming known as a person who makes time in their life for others will make it easier to develop deeper relationships, both at work and outside of work.

These tips aren’t rocket science but considering critically and strategically how to create stronger bonds with others can yield amazing benefits and shortcuts to career success. The path to strong relationships is one that involves thinking about others more than about ourselves, even when it is our success we are pursuing. Successful careers are built on the back of authentic, diverse relationships that go beyond the norm to establish a reputation for excellence.