The Secret To Cultivating Positive Workplace Relationships

A group of happy people
One of the keys to transforming workplace relationships for the better is to build and sustain High Quality Connections (HQC) – a highly practicable concept that was born out of the research spearheaded by Professor Jane E. Dutton of the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan.

HQCs are defined as short-term, dyadic positive interactions at work, identified by mutual positive regard, trust and active engagement between two individuals.

In a HQC, people tend to feel more accommodative, adept and alive. These interpersonal connections are critical building blocks for bringing the best out of people and their organisations, thereby contributing to individual flourishing and team and organisational effectiveness.

Conversely, low quality connections are those that are marked by distrust and disregard of others’ worth, and like a body exposed to a deadly virus and gradually getting more and more infected with it; people in toxic organisations get weaker through the exposure to the toxicity of low quality connections which eventually disintegrates innovation, loyalty and commitment.

Notably, most corrosive interactions between co-workers occur in seemingly ‘harmless’, small incidents and not through big blow-ups, but over time, the undesirable effects become cumulative. This damaging network of relationships may just be spreading in your organisation right now.

So How Can The Simplest Action Prevent This And Contribute To The Building Of A HQC?

The Answer: Respectful Engagement

Respect – the honouring and/or acknowledgement of another person’s existence or value. This is an impression often formed during our interactions with other people that subtly gives us the signal whether one is giving another due attention or not. The absence of respect conveys a message of distrust and unworthiness.

Have you ever had the experience of going on a date and all the other person does the entire evening is giving maximum attention to his or her phone? How did you feel? How about the last time when you made a request to your boss in his office and all you receive in response was ‘ah huh’ or ‘whatever’? Sounds familiar?

Respectful engagement also gets triggered through active listening. This means that one must combine both empathy and active engagement during any interpersonal interaction. Empathy should be exhibited by the behaviour of tuning into the words of the other person so that one can imagine the actual meaning and even emotions of that individual. Curiously, the traditional Chinese character for ‘listen’ has actually embodied these active listening attributes for centuries.

A group of happy people
Though it has since been made easier for writing through fewer strokes in its simplified form in recent decades, this original character, pronounced as ‘ting’, breathes the definition of active listening.

By deconstructing the entire character, you would almost immediately understand that the creator of ‘ting’ has in fact recommended that to really listen, one would have to enable the physical aspect of performing the act (ear) with undivided attention (ten) (eyes) and empathy (one) (heart).

The quality of our communication defines the quality of our relationships, but yet, how often have you been respectfully engaging your colleagues?

Building quality workplace relationships needs no gargantuan effort – Respectful engagement through active listening can be a positive start.

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