What Is Your Best Tip For Building Productive Workplace Relationships?

Coworkers with a good workplace relationship talk

When it comes to productivity, who you work with is just as important as how you work. Building productive workplace relationships is often essential to career success. So, how can you establish these kinds of relationships at work?

Here are some tips from leading executives on how to build productive workplace relationships.

Steve Barriault, Global Technology Sales Leader

Leader builds workplace relationships during a meeting


Human beings seek justice. Humans also crave recognition.

Aristotle once said that humans were political animals. I like to think it means that we are naturally drawn to others and define ourselves based on our interactions with fellow humans. That influences our interactions with fellow human beings in all settings, including the workplace.

My number one tip for building productive workplace relationships, both within your team and with others, is simple: ensure that you recognize others' contributions.

For us in sales, it is a lesson all too easy to forget. Since we handle the front lines, it is all too easy to forget that we stand on our co-workers' shoulders.

That huge sale we just bagged would never have happened without that excellent lead provided to us by marketing; without the amazing product put together by engineering; without the responsiveness of support; and without folks in operations and HR making sure, among other things, that paychecks hit our bank accounts and expenses are reimbursed.

Within the team, perhaps the huge sale may have been inked by the senior leader, using his might for the final push. But it may have been introduced by a junior member and prepared by field engineers. And those artisans in the shadows deserve some limelight shining upon them.

So, we need to pay tribute where tribute is due. All team members should do it. But it is vital that the leader does it, and does it effectively. That is the key to creating an atmosphere where people feel empowered with a sense of mission.

When people identify the organization's success as their own and get proper recognition for the contributions, they can move mountains. And, you end up with a positive and fun work atmosphere, which is a true reward all on its own.

That is not to say that you should praise all the time, even when there is no reason to. See, we humans also crave truth. People will see right through phony accolades and discount it accordingly. It won't help your workplace relationships—quite the opposite.

But give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's. When people feel recognized, they will be happy and productive. What's there not to like?

Steve Barriault is a global technology sales executive with 18+ years of experience in business development on three continents. He is currently serving in a 3,000 employee-strong company providing embedded software testing solutions in multiple industries such as automotive, avionics, industrial systems, telecom, and others. Multilingual, he holds advanced degrees in business, science, and computer science.

​Rosanne Mao, CFO/Finance Director

Leader talks about workplace relationships during a meeting


My best tip for building productive workplace relationships is developing positive and effective work relationships. When people get along in the workspace and work effectively as team members, they are more productive. Being happy at work increases creativity, innovation and motivation, thus boosting productivity.

The best financial leaders lead the way in relationship building. In a positive workplace where people feel respected and welcomed, the staff will feel comfortable in suggesting process improvements, taking smart risks, and accepting new responsibilities. Trust makes things much easier in finance business partnering. The qualifying accountancy bodies CPA and CIMA are very clear and upfront with the "code of ethics"—principles such as objectivity, confidentiality, integrity, professional behavior, and professional competence. Successful finance functions and astute finance leaders recognize the real value in cultivating a culture of collaborative working and strong relationships.

A productive relationship is a partnership that achieves outcomes. People's capabilities are fundamental to the success of any finance function. The effective working relationship between HR and finance is rewarded. Organizations can foster collaborative working relationships through talent programs, organization-wide projects, cross-functional working parties, and coaching and mentoring practices. Improved productivity, in turn, leads to increased job satisfaction and motivation. They form the basis for promotional opportunities, pay increases, goal accomplishment and job satisfaction.

According to a study, companies that won a "Best Places to Work" award recognizing their positive culture, significantly outperformed (by 115.6 percent) the overall market in the S&P 500. Engaged employees produce better business outcomes than other employees across industry, company size, and nationality, and in good and bad economic times. Business or work units that score in the top quartile of their organization in employee engagement have nearly double the odds of success.

Positive workplace culture brings financial gains when employees feel a positive and personal connection with the team. We can create commercial environments that delight our customers and improve the efficiency of the operations through beautiful and innovative workplace design. The collaborative workspace planning can be formed when understanding the challenges within and between departments. The interpersonal work relationships are cherished: effective teamwork, improved morale in the workplace, and improved personal growth.

Building a culture of trust and responsibility is the key to sound relationship management. Employees contribute greatness in seeking the accomplishment of the organization's purpose and goals. During COVID-19, it's never been more important to learn how to level up productivity from home and overcome remote work collaborative challenges. Virtual team building should help boost morale, increase productivity, and improve overall results.

Rosanne Mao is a CFO/finance director with more than 20 years of financial management experience in a multinational company. She's helped the company enhance cash flow, maximize corporate profitability, improve investor relationship, and reduce risk. Her leadership strategy has successfully driven company EBIT to increase by 15%. She has strategically led the enterprise digital transformation with 37% improvement in financial productivity.

​Karen Doerr, Business Development And Healthcare Sales Leader

Coworkers build a productive workplace relationship


A friend of mine asked me what my secret power was in establishing trusting and productive relationships at work. Without hesitating, I said that I try to "BE PRESENT" in every encounter with someone.

When thinking about how you can "BE PRESENT," consider the following:

B: Be honest and consistent in your communication and actions. Nothing degrades trust faster than not knowing how likely someone is to "show up" at work. Hold yourself accountable and own up to your own mistakes. Do what you say you are going to do.

E: Exhibit emotional vulnerability. Allow others to see that you are not perfect. Share something about yourself or your skill sets that you are sensitive about—i.e., not being an Excel wizard. For example, "I am struggling with how to interpret the new third quarter data." Extend an opportunity for them to share ideas or solutions that can help you while creating trust.

P: Pay attention to how others communicate. Actively listen. Create moments that allow "silence or pauses" in your communication with others. Display emotional intelligence. Do not be so preoccupied in what you want to say or ask that you do not allow the other person time and space to respond. Not everyone thinks like they are in a rapid-fire game show.

R: Recognize and explore different viewpoints or approaches. Acknowledge that your colleagues and clients likely have both similar and different experiences than yours. Be genuinely interested in learning from them. Offer compromise or set time aside to establish common ground and expectations. Be open to other processes which can drive efficiency.

E: Express ideas with non-judgement. Don't create a "backstory" and assume you know how folks will respond to ideas being presented.

S: Share some time together outside of the office. Make time to share a beverage before or after work. Take a walk or volunteer to help a community effort you both support.

E: Establish boundaries. Share your availability and general work hours. Remain flexible but also accountable for your own personal well-being. Know when to turn off.

N: Navigate tough discussions respectfully. Agree to disagree. Act with integrity knowing it is more important to do the right thing than to do what is easy and fast in most situations.

T: Trust first. Always assume people have good intentions. According to Brené Brown, "Trust is created in small moments." I once had a client who cancelled three calls with me at the last minute. I graciously worked with her admin to find a time that worked for her. She chose our services ultimately for this reason. She said, "Even though you did not have the most sophisticated product, you recognized that I had more pressing issues that needed to be addressed. That decision allowed me to trust you faster and believe that you would be responsive to my changing business needs and priorities, knowing that your success was second to mine."

Karen Doerr is a business development and healthcare sales leader who enjoys introducing new tools and services to payers and providers that increase patient access and eliminate waste in healthcare delivery. Karen has helped start-ups and medium-size companies establish national brand awareness and accelerate revenues exploiting gaps in the complicated healthcare ecosystem. In her last leadership role, she led sales and marketing efforts for a digital healthcare start-up targeting chronic disease and is most impactful at the intersection of primary care, technology, and care management.

​Susan Leys, Healthcare Coach, Consultant, And Career Navigator

Leader talks to colleagues to build better workplace relationships


The best tip for building productive workplace relationships is to continue to develop and foster the mission congruence of your organization—even if you're not the CEO of the company or in a leadership position. If you believe in your organization's mission and vision and your behavior aligns with that vision, your team will be productive.

During this time of reflection initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic, I have had time to watch some webinars hosted by different companies across the country. The webinars I have enjoyed most are the ones demonstrating mission congruence in the communities they serve and their team members. As Andrew Carnegie once said, "As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do." I believe this is true of companies and organizations as well. If you work at an organization that is true to their mission and vision, your team, and the relationships they have with each other, will be more collaborative and productive.

Two examples of mission congruence are as follows (note: I am not employed by either of these organizations but have purchased products from both):

Verizon: Verizon's mission and vision statement is clearly reflected on the "Who We Are" page of their website. Earlier this year, Verizon had a webinar for veterans (hosted by Military Recruitment Team leader Tommy Jones on LinkedIn) about why their company was a good fit for veterans entering the public sector. Verizon's vision statement related to teamwork states, "We know teamwork enables us to serve our customers better and faster." Their subsequent description of teamwork is directly in line with the concept of teamwork reflected in the military.

The webinar hosted by Tommy Jones and his team at Verizon illustrated the different positions available at the time and the skills service members already had that would be a good fit for them. Additionally, other professionals already on the Verizon team discussed how they had transitioned from the military into their careers and described both their successes and challenges.

Land O'Lakes: On their website page about their company, part of the Land O'Lakes' vision states: "Even the Best Can Get Better: We are driven every day to make things better. For you, for ourselves, and the world around us."

Previously, when I thought of Land O'Lakes, I thought about their products: Vermont Cultured butter with sea salt, sliced ham, and Cabot Creamery shredded Italian cheese that I use to make my favorite Sunday morning omelet. I didn't expect the announcement made on July 15th of this year announcing their strategic alliance with Microsoft, which would help bring broadband access to many rural families across the country. But what a fantastic endeavor it is for both organizations to create, especially when considering how many people will be helped by this alliance.

It is a blessing to love where you work. Having your life mission aligned with that work? Priceless.

S.A. Leys is a coach, consultant and career navigator at We provide coaching, consulting, and debriefing for the healthcare professionals and teams who care for all of us. Follow our hashtag #debriefyourteam on LinkedIn to receive information and strategies to assist your team with coping and retention strategies.

​Tonya Towne, Strategic Planning Leader

Productive coworkers work on a project together


My experience has shown that keeping commitments is one of the best ways to build productive workplace relationships. A person can build credibility and gain trust when people know they can count on them to get the job done.

It is so easy to say "yes" to everything, but if a person truly cannot deliver on a commitment, they should be transparent in their delivery and set expectations. For example, I worked on a project team where federal regulators required critical data. The data analyst responsible for the output continued to tell the project manager the data would be ready for review by the target date. However, the day before the target date, the analyst advised the team that they needed another week. This delay would have caused additional scrutiny from federal regulators. Therefore, the manager was engaged, and additional resources were mobilized to get the job done overnight. The data analyst lost a considerable amount of credibility and when the opportunity arose for future projects; their name was discussed as a resource to not include in the efforts.

In the above example, the data analyst could have practiced a few options since their plate was fully loaded, such as either saying "no" to this commitment upfront and recommending another resource/solution or asking for help before the 11th hour. It is okay to say "no" for the benefit of a project and a person's well-being.

Over many years, I have known people to confuse accepting many commitments with being successful. "If I look busy, I am seen as important." False. One cannot be successful if their commitments are not fully executed or on time. Further, not only will their reputation be negatively impacted but they also encounter an extreme amount of unnecessary stress.

When a person successfully delivers their commitments, they are revered as a "go-to" resource and called upon consistently. As a reliable resource, people will see a person with integrity and will (1) want to partner for other efforts and (2) reciprocate when that resource has a need. When demonstrated in practice, keeping commitments in the workplace builds productive relationships.

Tonya Towne is a strategic planning leader with extensive experience in the financial services industry including mergers and acquisitions, process transformation, product management, and non-performing asset sales. She has developed and led teams of 2-20 employees with operating budgets of $1M - $15M and maintained employee engagement results above 90%. In her most recent leadership role, she managed program portfolios from $2M - $50M in technology investments, as well as led the sale of $1B in unpaid principal balances of non-performing loans and credit cards in Canada and the U.S.

​Amy Hinderer, Business Management & Operations Executive

Two productive coworkers get to know each other better


The ability to build relationships in everyday life, especially in the workplace, is one of the strongest traits an individual can possess that will skyrocket their success. These Individuals are gifted with the ability to interact with all types of personalities. They can build mutual trust and respect with the people they interact with, while others may struggle or believe that they already know how to build and nurture these relationships. Regardless of which side of the fence you are on, here are some helpful reminders to assist with building and advancing healthy and productive relationships in the workplace.

Ask questions and listen. To build positive and productive relationships with your co-workers, it is important to learn more about them. One of the ways to do this is by simply asking questions and actively listening to their answers. By initiating this dialogue, trust begins to build between the parties, and we know that trust is a basic building block to healthy relationships.

Let others know who you are by first sharing insights about yourself. This could be from a field of expertise, mutual connections, or personal interests. The goal here is to let people see you as someone who is approachable and someone they want to know.

Connect on a common business goal. As employees, we want the company to be successful in achieving their goals. Do not be afraid to ask for help and involve individuals on your projects who can contribute to the overall solution. The more we work with our colleagues, the better we get to know them.

Compliment, praise, and notice a colleague's work. This can be in the form of sharing their contributions at a team meeting, writing a thank you note and copying their manager, or speaking with them individually and letting them know their contributions made a positive impact on the project. People like to feel valued and will feel a deeper bond with their colleagues because they were noticed.

These are a few ways that I have found to help build healthy relationships in the workplace. What are yours? I'd love to hear what has worked for you.

Amy Hinderer is a business management & operations executive with 18+ years of experience in global enterprise and start-up businesses. She has managed teams ranging in size from 10 up through ~35K supporting revenues between $2M - $9B.

There are a lot of different ways you can go about building productive relationships at work. According to our leading executives, you can accomplish this is by recognizing your colleagues' contributions, keeping commitments, sharing insights, and listening to what your co-workers have to say.

All of these things help build trust in the workplace, which is, of course, the foundation of every good relationship. Try adopting this strategy at work today and see how it benefits your workplace and your career as a whole.

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