At the beginning of my career, I encountered a professional learning curve in a way that didn’t have anything to do with my competency. I’d entered the workplace poised, serious, and ready to hit the ground running. After all, who doesn’t love a go-getter?
Well, the lack of lunch invitations and small talk coming from my new colleagues taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of getting to know your coworkers. Now, several years and editorial roles later, I encourage everyone to invest in building good relationships with teammates.
Here are a few ways to start conversations that’ll help you get to know the people you spend your days with. Trust me when I say that it pays.
Put work-related topics aside and just chat. In order to develop real bonds with coworkers, you have to let your guard down a little. Talk about your background and look for common interests. If your cubemate is from a different culture, use this as an opportunity to learn more about his or her rituals and customs and to share more about yours. When you take interest in someone’s life outside the office, you’re more likely to develop an authentic connection.
Let’s face it: Everyone is busy, and it’s easy for hard work to go unnoticed. Be the officemate who isn’t afraid to say, “I loved your work on that project” or “Great idea!” when a coworker does something praiseworthy. When you aren’t focused on competing with your peers and you take the time to genuinely point out when someone else does a good job, you’re not only being a good teamplayer. You’re better positioning yourself to have allies in the office who’ll support you too.
If social interactions during the workday feel stiff or awkward, consider arranging or participating in after-work meetups. You and your colleagues will be more relaxed when you’re free from looming assignments and deadlines. One tip, though: Never drink too much. Getting too tipsy is definitely not professional, and you don’t want to give anyone a reason to make you the subject of tomorrow’s topic of gossip.
No matter how you choose to break the ice at work, remember: Like any relationship, work friendships take effort but also have to develop naturally. Don’t force it, but do open yourself up to opportunities that allow for genuine connections. Let your guard down! At the very least, you’ll be growing your network and forging relationships that can last even when you move on from a company. At best, you’ll develop lifelong friendships.