By Vivian A. Scott
People do things for people they like. And, there's no better example of that happening than in the workplace. I'm often asked about strategies employees can use to build closer relationships with their coworkers. And when I am, I usually share a few basic ideas.
The most obvious place to start is simply with your general demeanor. Remembering common courtesies like saying good morning and acknowledging everyone you pass in the hallway can go a long way in how others view you; and whether they're interested in knowing more about you.
Practice extending common courtesies into open-ended conversation starters. For instance, rather than just saying, "Good morning" or "How was your weekend" with the expectation the question will elicit a one or two-word response, try for more. Ask what the highlight was of their weekend and then ask a few questions related to the reply. If time allows, share a brief story of your highlight. It may feel awkward at first, but keep in mind that relationships are built on the mundane.
If you find that you have a particularly strained relationship with someone in another department or got off on the wrong foot with someone on your own work team, be careful not to talk too much about it with other coworkers. Asking someone to take your side or participating in any form of gossip rarely ends well and can create some pretty solid boundary lines that are hard to erase. It will be difficult for you to build a closer relationship with someone who knows you've spoken poorly of them.
On a more formal basis, look for ways to create cross-departmental work groups. Even if there are no work projects to focus on, there are always opportunities to create a task force on building safety, employee morale, or even the holiday committee. Offer up help without looking too eager wherever and whenever you can.
Last but not least, find public forums to talk about the importance of everyone's role and offer unsolicited, but sincere, bits of praise. If you can make others feel good about their work they're more apt to feel good about you and reciprocate the goodwill.
Vivian Scott is a Professional Certified Mediator with a private practice in the Seattle area. Author of "Conflict Resolution At Work For Dummies" (Wiley Publishing 2009), which is a practical guide for resolving problems at work, she believes the book is a must-have for anyone interested in restoring peace, training others to get along better, preventing conflicts from ever starting, and boosting morale. The advice contained in the book works just as well for individuals outside the workplace. See Scott's website at http://www.vivianscottmediation.com for more information on mediation and resolving conflicts.