5 Steps to Better Work Relationships

(by Katrin)

How good are your work relationships? What do you do with a relationship that seems hopelessly stuck in a negative groove? Just putting up with it is not an effective strategy. Yet, being confrontational does often more harm than good.

What if you suddenly knew how to design great, fluid relationships with bosses, clients and team members in other departments?

That’s right, designing relationships for maximum effectiveness. It’s a powerful skill and it will serve you in all your relationships, at work and at home.

Here’s how:


When you focus on a common goal you both have, it’s easier to find ways to work together, because you can relate everything back to that common goal. It may take a little effort to find a common pursuit, but doing that work and sharing that insight will be invaluable.

Once you’ve defined a common goal, talk with the person with whom you haven’t been in synch. And lead with something like this:

“Hey …… we’re both working toward the same goal, which is <INSERT COMMON GOAL HERE >. It seems at times like we’re not fully in synch. I wonder how we might fine-tune how we work together so we’re more in synch and I can support you better. 

Can’t think of a common goal? Here are some examples:

  • growing the company
  • driving sales or customer satisfaction
  • meeting deadlines
  • implementing a better system
  • keeping the boss happy


Focus on what you appreciate about them and tell them. That may seem hard if what you’d really like to say is “Dude, you suck.” But if you want a better working relationship, you just HAVE TO shift your perspective. Period. Focus on the good. Period.

QUICK EXERCISE: In your head, or on paper take a second to answer one of these questions:

  • What are 2 or 3 things you appreciate about him or her? OR,
  • What are 2 or 3 things you see as their strengths?
  1. _________________________________________________________
  2. _________________________________________________________
  3. _________________________________________________________

Then, TELL them. For example:

“I appreciate your …………” or “What I find valuable about collaborating with you is …….” or “I always enjoy your ………”. 


Tell them that you care about having a quality relationship and that you’d like to discuss how you could take your relationship to new heights. Trust your intention because it shows that you care. A positive intention has tremendous power. And, if in a worst case scenario, there is no shift in the relationship because after all “it takes 2 to tango” at least you will be able to say that you tried your best.

You could say something like:

 “Let’s take a moment to discuss how we can most effectively work together – in a way that works well for you and for me.”


Once you have their buy-in to work on this together, take turns asking each other:

What’s your idea of a good relationship?

What’s important to you when you collaborate with someone?

What kind of communication works best for you?

How will I know if something I did made you angry?

How will we give each other feedback?

IMPORTANT: Before you do this step, make sure you, yourself are crystal clear about what is important to you in this relationship. What do you need to be productive?

Answer this for yourself: What are the top 3 things I need from this relationship so I can excel at my job?

  1. _________________________________________________________
  2. _________________________________________________________
  3. _________________________________________________________


Nothing is ever static, so make sure you check in with each other and refine your partnership over time. By paying attention to this process, and keeping your common goal in clear sight, you can design truly effective working relationships.

Commit to becoming great at designing relationships because it will serve you for the rest of your life.

Give it a try! (and let me know how it goes).


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