We are designed to have deep relationships. Human beings are inherently social creatures. Even shy people who prefer to be alone most of the time need the companionship of other people from time to time. That’s the way God made us. We were made to have deep relationships with God and with other people.
We find those relationships through our family, our friends, in romantic relationships, and with other people. Today, I would like to talk about an important type of relationship—deep relationships at work.
Do you realize you may spend more time with your co-workers than most other people in your life? Depending on your job, it can even rival the amount time you spend with your spouse and children. Consider, if you work full time, you might spend about eight hours a work day with your co-workers while you might only spend five to seven hours awake with your family. That’s a sobering reality that should remind you to make the most of your family time. It also shows how influential your work relationships are to your life. Make sure the relationships you have at work—where your spend so much of your time—are a positive influence on your life.
Not only do you spend a lot of time with your co-workers, how you relate to them also affects your success at work. You cannot reach your full potential at work unless you cultivate deep relationships with your co-workers. Your technical expertise is one aspect of your work success, but your success depends on your relationships more than you may know.
Healthy work relationships are built upon trust, mutual respect, integrity, open communication, and common goals. When you trust the people you work with, you can better communicate, collaborate, and work as a team. How effective can you really be if you feel you always have to “watch your back” at work? How can you work as a team with people you don’t respect or feel don’t respect you? How can you do your job well if you can’t communicate openly with your coworkers? How can your organization succeed if its workers don’t share common goals? Deep relationships at work are vital.
The Bible is not a business manual, but biblical principles about relationships apply at work as well as they do at home. Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:15-18 as you think about how these principles might apply with your co-workers.
15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Building Better Relationships at Work
The Apostle Paul’s advice applies in many areas of life. It is especially appropriate for work relationships. Isn’t it amazing how the Christian faith enhances all your relationships—even your work relationships? When we genuinely seek to follow Christ’s example at work, we build loyalty, respect, communication, and cooperation. Everyone wins.
Since strong, healthy relationships are so important for success at work, I want to give you some ideas to build better relationship with your co-workers. There is a very helpful website called MindTools.com that offers free, practical, straightforward skills to help people excel in their career. Much of what they say rings true with my own experience working in both the secular and church world. Here are six practical ways I gleaned that you can use to build better relationships with your co-workers.[i]
Make Time to Build Relationships at Work – Romans 12:15 says, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” In other words, care about the people with whom you work. You will always get more from people who know you care. Make a point to devote part of every day to relationship building. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time. Even 20 minutes a day, broken up into five-minute segments can make a big difference. Stop by someone's office during lunch, write a thank you note or comment on a coworker’s Facebook page, ask a co-worker out for a quick cup of coffee. These little interactions build the foundation good relationships at work. A classic book that can teach you how to build relationships is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
Appreciate Others – Everyone needs to feel appreciated. Show your appreciation whenever you can—whether it is your boss or the person who cleans your office. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Look for ways to genuinely compliment people at work. Spend more time thanking and praising and your coworkers will be more open to the times you need to ask for help, give constructive criticism, or face a difficult problem. Sincere appreciation leads to loyalty, trust, and great work relationships.
Be Positive – Philippians 4:8 says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.” Focus on being positive as much as you can. Positivity is attractive and contagious and will help strengthen your relationships with your colleagues. No one wants to be around someone who's negative all the time. Laugh. Have fun. Take your job seriously, but don’t take yourself too serious. Be the kind of person people enjoy working with.
Maintain Healthy Boundaries – Robert Frost wrote in his poem Mending Wall, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Good boundaries at work make good coworkers. It’s good to help your coworkers and have them help you, but everyone should be responsible for their own work. And remember, the primary reason you are at work is to work. Your friendships with co-workers should support your ability to work, not hinder it. Healthy boundaries keep your work friends from negatively impacting your performance. Friendships at work have dynamics that are more delicate than friendships outside of work. Remember, your coworkers may have different personal values, ethics, and religious views than you. Be careful. Be mindful. Keep it professional and don’t let your personal life damage your professional career.
Avoid Gossip – Proverbs 11:13 says, “A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.” Proverbs 25:23 says, “…a gossiping tongue causes anger!” And Proverbs 26:20 says, “…quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” Many of the conflicts that injure relationships, hinder productivity, and damage careers could be avoided if only gossip was banished from the workplace. If you have a conflict with someone at work, talk directly to the person. This will build trust, loyalty, and cooperation. Talking behind their back will only make the problem worse and rarely solves the core issue. So don’t gossip!
Communication – James 1:9 says, “…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” That’s a beautiful description of effective communication. Stay calm and listen twice as much as you speak. Communication is important in all relationships. It is essential in work relationships. Communication keeps you in touch with your coworkers’ lives, but it is also fundamental to cooperation at work. You need to communicate often and well to ensure everyone understands the common tasks you must accomplish together. Bad communication causes frustration, mistrust, and poor work performance.
Colossians 3:23 says, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” There is one thing about work relationships: sometimes you have to work with people you don’t really like or can’t relate to. But for the sake of work, you have to have a relationship. How do you do it?
Maintain a professional relationship with them. You don’t have to be their best buddy, but you do have to work with them. You might be able to limit your interactions with them, but be careful. Don’t avoid them all together. When you avoid talking with people you dislike at work, it can handicap you—especially if you need that person’s help. Why set up obstacles for yourself where you work? You need all the help you can get. Don’t limit yourself with bad communication.
Instead of avoiding the problem, try to be proactive. Take the sacrificial attitude of Christ as much as you can. Reach out to them and have conversations. Perhaps you could even go to lunch together. As you talk, try to focus on the things you have in common instead of your disagreements. Ask them about their background, their interests, their greatest successes. You don’t have to become best friends, but you do need to be able to work together.
On the other hand, what if you just can’t have a good relationship with your co-workers? What if they are just not the kind of people you can trust and respect? What if communication with them is always going to be a very difficult chore? What if your coworkers have no integrity? What if you just don’t have many common goals? If after serious thought you feel your work relationships at a particular organization are always going to be strained, it might be time to look for another job. Remember, you are likely to devote a significant amount of your life to your work—possibly as much or more than you give to your family and personal friends. Why would you want to work at a place where too many of the relationships are bad? It might be time to take a leap of faith and plan a change.
In this case, I would not recommend quitting in an angry rage. However, you can pray for God’s direction and help, start looking for other opportunities, and go somewhere else where you can have better work relationships where everyone will benefit.
God wants us to have deep relationships in every area of our lives—at home, at work, at church, with our friends. Deep relationships are part of our DNA. However, our relationships will be limited if we do not have a healthy relationship with God through Jesus Christ. There is a longing in our soul that only God can fulfill. No other relationship can take its place. Friendships, families, marriages, & careers are damaged when people look to them for the fulfillment only God can provide.
If you want better friendships, if you want to fix your marriage, if you want a healthier family, if you want a better career, I implore you: come to Jesus and let him heal your soul. As Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”