Redefining relationships at work

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Redefining relationships at work

For most, the pandemic has changed the nature of relationships at work – moving coworkers from the meeting room to the screen. This is redefining how we interact and how work is done. The casual connection opportunities like passing someone in the hallway, dropping by their office or pulling together for a real time huddle have shifted to chat boxes, chimes, IMs and texts. While useful for quick requests and questions, these tools lack the context and relational connection essential to building lasting relationships at work.

As employers consider yet another iteration of RTO (return to office) plans, employees must evaluate their professional relationships in and out of the workplace to determine which should be tended to, reshaped or cleared.

Relationships at work look different

For those employees who are new in their job, building relationships with new coworkers can be especially challenging as many of those relationships were initially forged on a computer screen. For employees leaving jobs, workplace relationships can lack the closure that often comes when everyone is in the office, requiring extra effort to either bring closure or carry forward any of those relationships.

Maintaining a professional network outside of work has also been a challenge during the pandemic as the go-to groups were either discontinued or moved to an online platform. Time will tell what shape those opportunities will take. So, while that reveals itself, include those relationships in your assessment.

Understanding your relationships at work

So, no matter the nature of your professional relationships … they matter. And now is the perfect time to assess those relationships by first characterizing the relationship, followed by how you may approach them.

  • Additive relationships are those that are supportive and collaborative. These individuals are advocates for you and the work being done. They are invested in your success and the shared success of the group. There is a healthy balance of give and take in these relationships as they are built on a foundation of mutual respect and trust.
  • Detractors tend to be self-focused and create drama that slows down progress towards mutual goals. Detracts require a lot of time and energy to maintain.
  • Derailers are toxic. These individuals are self-serving, negative and undermining. They take more than they give, which often means these relationships lack a strong foundation and are not sustainable over time.

Caring for your relationships at work

Assessing and understanding where your work and professional colleagues fit allows you to determine how to approach those relationships moving forward. Because relationships, even the best ones, take work … consider what each relationship requires. Ask yourself this – do your professional relationships require tending, redefining or clearing?

  • Tending is the ongoing act of nurturing a relationship. It’s not a one-time thing, nor a one-sided activity. It’s takes effort and intention, on both sides. But it will keep your relationship strong and growing.
  • Redefining means looking at the role a particular relationship plays in your life, your work and your goals. There may come a time when you need to reset expectations for a relationship to remain positive and productive.
  • Clearing is the act of letting go. Sometimes, a relationship may no longer serve you. And instead of investing time and energy to tend, it’s time to move on … to clear the clutter.

Your professional relationships may look and feel different, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important in your career. Building, maintaining and growing relationships takes effort and now is the time to assess and evaluate with intention.


About the Author:

Cultivating Careers was founded by Karen Kodzik, a Career Consultant who has worked with individuals in transition for over 13 years. Karen meets professionals at various points on their career path and works with them to gain a clearer sense of where they want to take their careers. Karen Kodzik holds a Masters Degree in Counseling with an emphasis in Career Development. Karen couples seasoned counseling skills with a solid business acumen. She has coached and consulted various levels of professionals across industries to successfully reaching that next point in their career.

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