The Ultimate Guide to Better Work Relationships

By: Nozomi Morgan

Image Source: ThinkStock

Most of us have relationships with family, friends, our community, and people we work with. For many of my clients, their work relationships are the most challenging.

According to Andrew Tarvin, there are 7 types of work relationships:

  • Co-worker
  • Team member
  • Work friend
  • Manager/direct report
  • Office spouse
  • Mentor/mentee
  • Life friend

I would add a couple more to the list: external partners and big boss.

When you break it down like that, you can see how work relationships can be a lot to handle. No wonder we struggle trying to strike the right balance in showing our professional and personal sides.

Many leaders get promoted based on their strong, individual skill-sets and expertise. Schools don't prepare us for how to build effective relationships at work, and this can create a gap for leaders who are smart, but ill-equipped to manage the diversity of relationships they must maneuver.

Successful leaders have strong, trusting work relationships. It's nearly impossible to achieve your vision alone -- even for the brightest, most talented person. Career progression and success rely on involvement of many people across the company as well as help from and partnership with external resources.

Trust is the foundation of strong work relationships. If you are working on building better bonds at work, try these tips.

Listen more than you talk.

How do you build trust? You start by taking the time to know more about one another. People want to be heard. They want to feel valued and respected. That means you need to learn to listen. Take time to find out what they like or dislike. What are their goals? How can you support them? Don't you want other people to do the same for you?

Be honest.

The truth is powerful. Elvis Presley said, "Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away." One way or another, the truth will always come out. Don't hide it. Face it -- especially when it's a hard truth. People notice how leaders deal with the truth.

Be open.

Open your mind and eyes to the people and opportunities around you. A common mistake leaders make is that they only focus on creating good relationships with people they can benefit from. Remember that every single person has something valuable to contribute. It's up to you to notice.

Be flexible.

Your own way is not the only way. Good leaders are open to others' opinions, ideas and cultures. They flex their thoughts and views to see the bigger picture of how different ideas contribute to achieving the vision.

Show respect.

If you don't respect others, how can you expect anyone to respect you? Be kind and respectful to everyone around you -- from the cleaning lady to the taxi driver to the server and your admin staff. So many people support you. Every soul and living being on this Earth has a unique gift. Our differences are what make our world a beautiful place.

Be proactive.

Leaders do NOT wait around. They take action and make things happen. As Mahatma Gandi said, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world."

Go for win-win.

This world is abundant enough for all of us to achieve what we want. In negotiations or meetings, people often make the mistake of setting goals to beat the other side. Instead, think about how you could both walk away with what you want. Shoot for making both sides happy. Look for ways to collaborate. That's what good leaders do.

Be personal.

People crave connection, even at work. They want to know their colleagues. Being personal is not the same as being unprofessional. You can be professional and personal at the same time. Tear down that wall and show the world who you really are.

Be authentic.

People are smart. They can sense when your kindness or friendliness is phony. Check in with yourself. What are your intentions? Are they sincere? Be real. Be you.

Be fully you.
This is the easiest, yet most difficult one. I believe good leaders lead not only at work, but also in every aspect of their lives. That's what it means to live a Leadership Lifestyle. When you are fully "you," you are at your best. Show up as your best self in every aspect of your life.


Nozomi Morgan (@nozomimorgan), MBA, is a certified Executive Coach and the Founder and President of Michiki Morgan Worldwide LLC. In addition to coaching, she speaks and trains on leadership, career, professional development and cross-cultural business communication. Visit to learn more.