5.3 Building and maintaining work relationships
Connecting with people you work with, whether they are full-time colleagues or occasional participants, means being able to build a bond that stimulates their interest and engagement. Communication often serves two purposes: conveying information and/or an interpersonal function. The interpersonal function relates to developing confidence, trust and rapport with others, which are essential aspects of building and maintaining successful working relationships.
The technical name for small talk is ‘phatic communication’. Examples are ‘Hi, are you OK?’ or a comment about the weather. Questions or comments such as these are not meant to elicit detailed responses, but they do serve a social purpose. Phatic talk openings to dialogue are important in establishing goodwill, collaboration and cohesion between people.
Communication involves not only the words you use, but also the accompanying paralinguistic features such as pace, volume, rhythm and intonation of speech, all of which add to meaning.
Non-verbal communication features include gestures, proximity and eye contact. These contribute to effective communication.
Hand gestures are often used by speakers to accentuate the rhythm of their speech and give emphasis to certain words. They can also be used to point inwardly to magnify the first person (i.e. ‘me’, ‘I’ or ‘personally’) or outwardly to those listening (i.e. ‘you’).
Head gestures are often used by listeners in a dialogue to show they are listening.
You can partly control the feelings you exhibit, but hiding your innermost emotions can be hard – our faces leak information as numerous micro-expressions involuntarily flicker across our face.
It is also important to consider cultural differences when communicating. A multicultural society requires an awareness that cultures have different styles of verbal and physical communication, and an ability and sensitivity to respect these styles and adjust your communication approach appropriately.
Activity 11 The impact of hybrid on communicating with colleagues
Due to the pandemic, many of us are now working with people we have never actually met ‘in real life’, and increasingly with those from other cultures. Watch the video from the British Council.
Reflect on the video and think about the aspects of communication described above. If you have access to a recording of a meeting you attended, watch it and think about the behaviours demonstrated by its participants. Then consider how hybrid or digital-only working arrangements have affected your ability to build and maintain work relationships, and whether you have adapted how you communicate, especially with those from other cultures?
You can make some notes in the box below.