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3 Ways to Nurture Connections at Work

Here are three easy actions to give your co-worker connections a boost:
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Smiling businessman and businesswoman in conference room
Smiling businessman and businesswoman in conference room

by Sarah Montana

Have you ever felt disrespected at work? You're not alone. A recent poll from Harvard Business Review reveals that 98% of people have experienced "uncivil behavior" at the office. One recent, high-profile example? Kelly Ripa.

Last week, the "Live! With Kelly and Michael" host made headlines when she was absent from work after an announcement that her co-host Michael Strahan would be leaving the show was made public just moments after she was blindsided with the news herself. When she returned to work, she addressed the situation head on, emphasizing the need for "communication and consideration, and most importantly, respect in the workplace."

This brings to light the importance of our work relationships. We are humans, not robots, and we bring our whole selves to work--and we are at work a lot. A recent study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the average American spends more time with their coworkers than they do with their family and friends. It's no surprise that we are our happiest and most productive when we feel respected by and connected to the people we work with.

Here are three easy actions to give your co-worker connections a boost:

1. Don't be afraid to get personal

Yes, there are personal boundaries that should be respected at work. But that doesn't mean your co-workers should be total strangers. Get to know them. Make a point to learn about who's important to them. Do they have kids? A significant other? A pet? Learn their names! If your coworker mentions on Friday that her child has a soccer tournament that weekend, ask how it went on Monday.

More importantly, open communication and transparency can reduce office conflict and stress. If you know, for example, that your coworker was up all night with a sick child, you're more likely to be patient and less inclined to take their actions personally--and they are likely to reciprocate.

2. Find common ground

Ask your co-worker what they're watching, reading, or listening to. Figuring out your co-worker's tastes can inform how you interact with them--and you may find you have more in common than you thought. That common ground can help create a more resilient relationship: you may not see eye to eye all the time, but your common interests keep you in touch with your empathy and remind you there's more to this person than a disagreement. It may seem like small talk, but people appreciate it when you value and seek their opinion.

3. Say yes to being social

As tempting as it may be to skip the office happy hour, investing time with your co-workers outside of the office can make a difference in how you relate in the office. When you take the time to purposefully cultivate a positive relationship with your co-workers, you're showing that you recognize they have a life of value outside of work. Social events provide a rare opportunity to let your guard down. For extra impact, don't leave the conversation at the bar: if your co-worker gushes about their passion for fantasy football or cooking, send them a quick email linking them to an article you thought they'd like--it's an easy way to show that you are interested in what they have to say.

Creating and nurturing connections with coworkers is not only a key component to reducing stress and boosting your happiness at work--it's an invaluable part of building resilience in your life.