Positive Peer Relationships Are Good For You!
While all of us give a lot of importance to our relationship with our managers, we seldom think about peer relationships in the same manner. More often than not, we attribute our success to factors such as hard work, skills and experience, but we overlook the impact that peer relationships can have in our professional life.
When you work in teams or collaborate with peers, sometimes you have to bear with numerous unproductive meetings or spend time on unnecessary travel or think of ways to amuse and appease the people around. However, while teamwork and collaboration have their challenges, you can’t ignore their importance and benefits. To be honest, the positives of building strong peer connections outweigh the challenges.
What kind of peer relationships can you build at work?
In the classic book “Who’s That Sitting at My Desk”, Dr. Jan Yager refers to different kinds of peer relationships that you can experience at work. These are largely the kind of workships - as Dr. Jan Yager refers to them - that I have also experienced in my life.
Acquaintanceship: Most peer relationships begin at this stage. And honestly, a majority of them also end here. This is just a formal recognition of each other’s roles.
Workship: While Dr. Jan Yager categorizes every workplace relationship as a workship, these are some of the most commonly found workships.
Mentor: This is a productive relationship where one party nurtures the other’s career and growth by imparting mentorship.
Advocate: Unlike mentors, advocates don’t coach. They inspire you to be the best version of yourself. Most of the time this is out of selfless concern and care for you.
Trailblazer: A workplace trailblazer enjoys leading by example. They are always a few steps ahead of the others but mostly in a non-competitive way. They inspire you to be trailblazers too.
Friendship: This is the next step in your workship. Contrary to popular belief, workplace friendships aren’t always bad for your business. In fact this friendship is a conscious effort made by two parties to extend their relationship beyond work.
Foe: This is the most destructive kind of workplace relationship and needs to be immediately addressed. The success here depends on the two parties, as converting this to a workship or friendship can’t be forced upon.
I have had the pleasure of making a few lifelong friends through my workplace. All those relationships did not start at a high, but overtime moved from acquaintanceship to workship to friendship.
At the same time, I also had the misfortune of getting into some “foe” kind of relationships which I could not convert to a workship. Those relationships not only took away my mental bandwidth, but also hurt me professionally in my career.
How do you build positive peer relationships?
A survey conducted to measure workplace happiness found that 70% of employees attributed their happiness at work to having a friend at the workplace! There are many ways to build strong and positive peer relationships.
Spend time in close proximity: I strongly believe that peer relationships need you to spend time in close proximity with your colleagues. You might implement the best of communication platforms and employee engagement strategies but being in the same location can bring a lot of positive impact on the dynamic between people.
This doesn’t mean that you have to be in the office everyday or have lunch and coffee breaks together all the time. It only means coming together when you need to collaborate or brainstorm.
While my current role is “remote”, my work requires me to have strong peer relationships. So I intentionally make time to visit the office every few weeks and connect with my peers in person. Be it over meetings or after work hours in a casual setting. This has really helped me to build some strong peer relationships in a short amount of time.
Bring your personal side in: Bring in your personal side when approaching your peers. Peer relationships can’t be built only on the basis of just work conversations. You need to add a personal touch to it. This could mean sometimes bonding over common interests, checking in on your colleagues beyond the daily task list, asking them about their weekends and sometimes talking about their family might help you create a personal bond.
Be vulnerable: Like it’s important for you to check on your colleagues, it’s also important for you to sometimes put your guard down and be vulnerable. This doesn’t always mean that you should share extremely personal moments. It could also mean that you share your feelings about how you feel at work.
Stay away from judgement: Everyone has a different journey at your workplace so stay away from judgements. Judgement can really come in the way of your everyday conversations and relationship. More often than not, your initial impressions turn out to be wrong so stay away from your preconceived notions.
Managing peer relationships during remote work
Managing peer relationships while working remotely can be tough. Loneliness has been touted as one of the biggest challenges of working remotely. Here are a few ways in which you can build better peer relationships:
Make time for small talk.
Those Fun Fridays, Happy Hours can go a long way.
Offer support. Initiatives like Employee Resource Groups can be helpful.
Make time to meet in person
Find reasons to conduct off-sites
Peer relationships aren’t easy to manage and come with their own challenges but investing time and effort on them can be really beneficial. As peers support to up-level each other, the organization also scales up by fostering stronger and more connected leaders
Do you agree? How do you manage your peer relationships at work?
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