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Have you stepped back from your colleagues?

asian business woman in suit staring into the camera with blurred business people behind her.

I’ve seen a worrying trend emerging since we have all settled into a post-Covid world of hybrid work. And that’s a growing tendency to step back from colleagues.

Whereas office-based lives meant we needed to work at our colleague interactions, meet conflict head on, and build relationships that could be valuable to our career progression and general day-to-day working, hybrid working has allowed us to isolate ourselves from these important connections.


Why is this worrying?

I actually think this is a dangerous path for many people – particularly those who are at the start or mid-point of their careers. That’s because understanding how to build good relationships, and navigating the world of work is essential to a successful career path, particularly for those in junior roles who can learn valuable skills from others. So if you’re not doing it you could be missing out on important opportunities for yourself and for others.

Aligned to this, is the importance of getting constant and constructive feedback. The best circumstances for good feedback is where teams meet regularly – face-to-face as well as online – and where communication is clear, honest and focused. The value of this feedback means that individuals can see exactly what they need to work on to help progress their careers. Miss out on this, and you’re missing out on an essential part of your professional development.

We must also bear in mind that the way we work is constantly changing. At the moment, it’s an employee’s market – but that could easily change. When the market inevitably becomes more employer-led, your ability to build, maintain and navigate productive relationships could be a significant factor in your career success.


Actively avoiding colleagues

Of course, very few people enjoy conflict. So, it’s not surprising that we shy away from relationship problems and difficult conversations at work when we can. The difference at the moment is that we can. Working remotely, or from home, means that we are far more in control of the frequency and nature of our meetings or communications with colleagues. Interaction has to be more intentional. Rather than having to face conflict or difficult issues head on, we are far more able to ignore them.

We all need to work interdependently, however. So whether you like it or not, your day-to-day and long-term working relationships matter. My work concentrates on helping people overcome work challenges and consider their career plans and development areas; helping people develop positive working relationships is a key part of this as they have wide-ranging and important benefits. According to the online journal, Positive Psychology, these benefits include improved trust, increased job satisfaction and better mental health.


Better relationships and your career

Does this issue sound familiar to you? If you stop and think about it, are you avoiding certain people in your team or wider business? Are you choosing to ignore issues that are bothering you? Are you disconnecting from your colleagues?

Here are some good reasons why it might be time to reassess your current working relationships and start to tackle areas you may have been avoiding – not just for a better working experience, but for your longer-term career plan:


Build your internal network – this will make your day-to-day working life much more rewarding, helps you to become more productive, and is essential if you are looking for internal promotion or career development opportunities.


Collaborative working – sharing knowledge with others helps to improve the final result. You will learn from your colleagues, gaining new understandings and skills that can help to improve your personal performance.


Better engagement – even when you are working remotely, managers and colleagues can tell whether you are engaged or not. And regardless of the work you are doing, this will impact their overall impression of you and your contribution. So becoming more engaged with your colleagues, being proactive in meetings and tasks will help to improve relationships – and your prospects.


Easier to deal with challenges – whether these are personal challenges, client challenges or internal challenges, it’s easier to manage things when you have other people to talk to. Building two-way trust and communication into your relationships allows you to have reliable sounding boards and sources of advice when you need them.


Improved performance – if you’re looking at future career options, your performance matters. Your current manager, and anyone else in the business who may be considering you for promotion will want to see a good performance record. This is always easier to achieve if you are working well with other people in your team or across the business, and it will go towards building a positive professional image.


Could you be doing more?

Do you know, deep down, that you could be working harder on interacting with your colleagues? Are there some issues that need resolving so that you can work smarter, more collaboratively and more productively?

If the answer is ‘yes’, I have some great resources to share. These include some of the worksheets that go with my book, Getting On: Making work work. This dedicated resource will help you consider the status of your relationships, there are other great resources on my website. You can also book a call to see how I can help you work on the skills that will boost your career development and help you navigate daily working life more positively and effectively.