Cookies 🍪

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website.

Why you can’t ignore building relationships at work


 When people first get in touch with me to see how I can help them either make more impact in their current role, or prepare for promotion, I ask about their relationships with the people around them. Not their personal relationships – their professional ones.

To make sure we focus what we work on, I do a relationships audit with clients where it is relevant. This maps key relationships, gives them a priority ranking and allocates the relationship a red, amber or green status so we can make a plan.

Why do I focus on this? Because relationship building is often key to career success. For a while, certainly, talent, technical skills and professional qualifications can help you to secure a job and perhaps move to a new position. But if you want to build a serious career, you have to build serious relationships – and understand why it’s important.

In this article, we’ll look at why these relationships matter and how you can focus your time and energy on the ones that will make a difference to you.


Relationships within your business

Good relationships within your team, with your manager and across other functions in your business make life easier. When you enjoy the relationships you have at work, you can be more productive, more creative and often improve your performance – and that of the business.

If you are hoping to progress within your current business, building good relationships also gives you some career credit – people know you, understand what you bring to the business and trust you to deliver. Other ways that these relationships can benefit both you and the business include:


  • Increased knowledge sharing – when you work well with others, you share your knowledge and experience openly, and so do they. This creates a good internal learning culture that helps everyone to succeed.

  • Better transparency – forming trusted relationships means that people are more willing to say when they are unsure about something, or when they have made a mistake. This increases transparency across the team and delivers better long-term results.

  • More understanding – the open, inclusive culture that is formed when people concentrate on positive relationships means that they develop more willingness to understand others, work with them – and be forgiving when required.

  • Feeling they belong – coming into a workplace that is unfriendly, hostile and doesn’t involve people in decisions or actions leaves people feeling left out. But building good relationships that involved listening, feedback and appreciation leads to a sense of belonging and a willingness to contribute.

  • Higher productivity – happy people are more productive. It’s a simple statement and yet so many businesses brush over the benefits of a positive working environment. Study after study shows that, where relationships are good, productivity is higher.

If you can begin to influence and create these positive internal relationships, you will bring significant benefits to the business and create skills and opportunities that you can use to advance your own career.


External working relationships

These are just as important as building good relationships internally. Whether with clients, suppliers, investors or collaborators, your external relationships matter. They deliver measurable business benefits, as well as providing you with a secure network that could influence your next move.

What if building that better relationship resulted in a loyal client that gave you repeat business? What if that same client started referring other business to you, because they trust you to deliver? What if that same client also offered you a new job opportunity? All of these things can come from investing in building a better relationship.

Similarly, building your own network of contacts can bring in new business and create potential opportunities for your career. Like all authentic relationship building, however, this takes time. Don’t expect to go to one networking event and come away with contacts who are going to change your life.

Relationships are a commitment. That’s the same no matter what the context. It takes time, effort and a promise to yourself that you are going to make that effort.


Here are some things to think about as you head into 2023:

  • Who do you need to thank this year? Who has given you help, support, business and deserves appreciation and reconnection? Christmas gives you the perfect opportunity to do this – with a card, gift, coffee or lunch meeting or a date in the diary for the new year.

  • What networking will you do next year? Which groups, meetings or events fit best with your business and your career plans? Who do you need to connect with and get to know better?

  • Who in your current business could you improve relations with? What benefits will it bring for you, and how will you make a start?


One thing’s for sure – if you don’t make time for building these relationships, change simply won’t happen.

In my new bestselling book, Getting On: Making work work, I have two great resources for building relationships – Network Planning and the Strategic Relationships Plan. You can buy the book directly from me, or from any online bookstore to find out more about why relationships matter and how you can build them successfully.

Why not also download my Nine Skills Assessment Tool to see how you can learn and apply the skills you need to build better relationships? Or contact me today to find out more about how I can help you take the next steps.


Find out more about Joanna's book, packed full of practical guidance, with 19 support resources by clicking here.