Career Advice - Building professional relationships

The first few months in any role are an important time in which we feel a certain amount of pressure to prove our worth. This may take the form of impressing our new boss or delivering an early result. Apart from these early wins, it is crucial to build the foundations of strong working relationships with our new colleagues.

Building good working relationships is crucial to succeeding. Better working relationships lead to better teamwork and will help you to be happier, more engaged, and more productive. They are the foundation on which we succeed.

Considering this, as many working arrangements have quickly shifted to working from home, it is important to recognise that the way colleagues communicate has also evolved. So, how can we go about building good working connections in a new role when coming into an existing team where relationships are well established, in addition to navigating an entirely or partly remote working arrangement?

Here five key points to remember that can help you to establish good working relationships with your new colleagues:

1. Be proactive and help where you can without being asked

As the new person in the team, your colleagues will be keen to see what you can deliver both to wider team goals and also to projects they are working on. That will most likely take the form of the work you are tasked with early on; bear in mind that new employees are typically not very heavily loaded with work. 

Where possible, offer your knowledge and experience to group tasks and find a way to help with work your colleagues are undertaking. Schedule in video calls to discuss how you can support and to better understand how your team works together. Ensure that you are not spreading yourself too thinly and never attempt to take on work that you are not comfortable tackling, but where there is an opportunity to assist ensure that you take it. 

2. Make time for everybody, not just the senior stakeholders

There can be a tendency to focus all of your time and effort impressing more senior stakeholders, and a temptation to discount junior colleagues and tasks you deem to be of low importance. These things are important to someone, so don’t be dismissive. This can be hard in a new role where there is pressure to impress and make an impact, particularly when operating remotely in a challenging market. However, remember that a reputation is built across all levels, not just among your boss and the management team.

By establishing yourself as a reliable, helpful, and respectful member of the team among your junior colleagues as well as bosses and peers, you will go a long way to building long-lasting professional relationships.

3. Deliver on work and always follow up with people 

Nothing is worse than someone who fails to deliver on a promise or consistently misses deadlines. There is no quicker way to spoil your reputation and damage potential working relationships than failing to follow through on work or not replying to emails and requests for information and help.

If you do find that you are above capacity or short of time to follow up on everything it is important to be open and honest about it with your colleagues. Better to give someone fair warning and be honest than to fail to deliver with no explanation.

4. Show yourself in meetings

Professional relationships are built on respect and there is no better way to earn the respect of your colleagues than by proving yourself an engaged and valuable member of the team. And where better to prove that you are here to take part than in meetings. Turn up prepared, give your opinion, support that of others, be proactive and partake in proceedings. 

While this might be different while operating remotely, ensure your camera is on and that you regularly engage with those presenting in team meetings. This will help the team put a face to your name and will make it easier for you to get to know who is who in the team. 

5. Be positive

A key part of building healthy relationships is to retain a positive attitude towards your new colleagues. There is sure to be some level of office politics and gossip – this is just a reality of working in close quarters. However, as a new face in the team, it is important that you distance yourself from this activity. 

The nuances of how a large team works together and relate are complicated and there is only damage to be done by getting too involved in gossip or politics. Don’t risk disparaging someone or joining in a joke at someone else’s expense and spoiling your reputation early on. Before you know it, the gossip will be about you and it is hard to win back a tarnished reputation.

Hard work, honesty and a positive professional demeanour are traits that will take you a long way in your career and also ones that will help you to make an impact in any new role. By respecting your colleagues and proving your value by offering your time, experience and expertise you can quickly build meaningful professional relationships which will carry you through not only the early months in your new job but your long-term future with the organisation.

6. Learn to communicate effectively 

When learning to build solid relationships at work it's important first to learn about communication, and the styles of communicating. When looking at the DiSC model, there's 4 key personality types that people can often be grouped into: the driver, the influencer, supporter and controller. 

Working out what type of communication you are and prefer, as well as learning that of your colleagues is really important when it comes to building out those long-lasting relationships. In our guide to good communication and the DiSC model you'll see just how important communication is and practical steps to working out where you sit in the communication style list. 

We have more advice on navigating the tricky, but important, first 90 days in a new job, and tips on growing your career.

It is also important to recognise the challenges that working from home may present, not just to yourself, but your team and peers. Creating a motivating culture for remote teams is crucial in the current climate. Be sure to wat our on-demand webinar to find out how to boost morale in your remote team. 

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