Building Relationships at Work: How to Trust and Be Trusted

building relationships at work with coworkers

The world of work constitutes a major part of our lives, and one of the biggest factors affecting our satisfaction and happiness at work revolves around the people we’re with all day.

Building relationships in the workplace isn’t something that can be checked off a to-do list, but it should always have a place among your top priorities because it affects everything you do personally and professionally.

Sometimes it’s tempting just to keep your head down and get your work done if you don’t have strong relationships with the people around you – but that’s the perfect time to look at what you can do to improve relationships with your coworkers and your team.

Building strong relationships at work requires things like:

  1. Taking initiative to start conversations
  2. Looking for ways to collaborate
  3. Recognizing biases and keeping an open mind
  4. Asking questions and listening to responses
  5. Offering to help without being asked
  6. Learning about others’ experiences
  7. Being supportive in tough situations
  8. Providing feedback (not just opinions)
  9. Being open, honest, and fair
  10. Respecting boundaries (others’ and your own)
  11. Being reliable and accountable with your work
  12. Letting yourself be vulnerable

Even if you have a lot of good working relationships already, look through this list and take the time to find out what you could improve – you might be surprised at how much your day-to-day could improve when your relationships are strengthened.

Building relationships with coworkers, leaders, and teams requires being open to thinking differently. Your perspective may be different from your colleague’s, but you won’t know unless you ask them. Maybe there’s something you’re completely missing that would help each of you understand how to solve a problem or work together better.

The first step to improving relationships with your coworkers is showing them that you want to know and work with them better.

If you’re sitting there wondering why your workplace doesn’t have much camaraderie or people don’t make the effort to get to know each other better, you can be the one to take the initiative.

Learn more about building relationships and trust at work with this free guide:

Take the First Step to Build Trust in the Workplace

A foundational part of building work relationships is trust. It’s your willingness to trust someone else, and your own trustworthiness.

Everything about relationships is reciprocal, especially when it comes to trust.

This can be tricky, though, because it’s often a chicken or the egg situation. Why should you trust someone with handling something before they’ve proven they’re capable of handling it? That’s the trap a lot of leaders fall into if they haven’t learned how to delegate well.

This is where a workplace that values the freedom to fail can allow people to develop effective working relationships exponentially faster than leadership that expects perfection.

When you delegate a task or simply ask a colleague for a favor, you’re showing them that you have confidence in their ability to come through.

For a relationship to grow, the other person needs to know that you value them as a person more than the outcomes of tasks they complete. If they don’t come through like you’d hoped, the worst thing you could do would be to give up on them after one shot.

Looking at a relationship from a lens of what the other person has to offer you will get you nowhere. Building trust at work requires investing your time, talent, and vulnerability into what’s best for someone else.

Do Your Coworkers Think You’re Trustworthy?

It’s one thing to trust others, but are you allowing them to develop trust in you as well? Without showing vulnerability to others, you may gain their respect (which is important), but a good working relationship can’t form until you’re both willing to show what makes you human.

“Remember, teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”

– Patrick Lencioni

You have weaknesses. Maybe someone who you work with is strong where you’re weak. Letting them see that you could use their help in that area allows them to trust that you would do the same for them – that you would share your strengths, too.

A simple way to build trust with colleagues and improve your work relationships is to ask them, “Can you help me?”

When you open up your failures and weaknesses to be seen, and genuinely seek out help from those around you, you’ll see your work relationships dramatically strengthened.

Developing emotional intelligence is one of the best ways to build trust in work relationships – learn more in this free handbook:

At BizLibrary, we believe building strong relationships in the workplace is an important part of overall employee development. That’s why our online learning library includes soft skills courses like the one below, to help you provide meaningful and actionable training content to your teams.

Watch a 1-minute preview of “Building Great Relationships at Work” below, and explore more from The BizLibrary Collection:

Training & Development Industry Researcher | Krista researches, analyzes, and writes about the impacts of employee learning on organizations and individuals. She looks at the industry shifts and trends that matter to L&D and HR professionals, and helps them understand how to create better training programs that grow their employees and their business.