Learning Task 4: Maintain Relations

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Working with others is an essential skill and integral to almost every job. The individuals you work with may be your co-workers, customers, or a combination of the two. If you remember to always treat people with respect and in the manner that you wish to be treated, you should be able to deal effectively with customer and co-worker relations. If relationships are new, it is always important to take the time to slowly build that relationship, whether it is face to face or online.

It is much better to take a more conservative approach when establishing new relationships in the workplace than to be too familiar with a stranger. If you are working in a team environment, learning to understand the synergy of the group is important, as is ensuring that your group environment is welcoming to new staff members, visitors, and clients.

Workplaces benefit from cohesive working environments fostered by good employee relations.  When employees treat each other with respect, communicate with each other effectively, work together as a team and appreciate the contributions of their colleagues, productivity and job satisfaction are increased as a result.  Inclusion of others in the workplace helps to make everyone feel like part of the team.  Sometimes we may not know how to include a new co-worker, especially if we perceive they are different than us, this is likely because of our unconscious biases. Recognizing these biases, our privilege and any power dynamics that may be present, along with practicing inclusive behaviours goes a long way in developing good working relationships.  Some examples of inclusive behaviours are greeting others genuinely, employing good listening skills, speaking up if someone is being excluded, recognizing, and addressing misunderstandings, engaging positively with other people’s ideas and feelings and validating other’s concerns.  Focusing on cultivating and maintaining a good workplace dynamic is important to everyone’s success.

Co-worker Relationships

Effective co-worker relationships are built on respect and understanding. The following are just a few tips on how to develop and maintain healthy relationships in the workplace:

  • Practice common courtesy and treat others as you like to be treated. Be honest, make eye contact with your co-workers, and exchange greetings.
  • Use effective communications: verbal, written, aural, and physical (body language).
  • Be observant. If you feel that something is wrong, follow up with the individual or group.
  • Be respectful of other people’s time.
  • Be proactive in asking for help from your colleagues when necessary.
  • Use social media with caution. Don’t mention issues related to work, your employer, or co-workers on the Internet. These messages can go viral, be taken out of context, and have serious long-term repercussions.
  • Remember to keep work and home life separate. Your relationship with co-workers must remain professional and beyond reproach, even if you are friends outside of work.
  • Have a positive attitude and don’t complain about work to your colleagues. It can have a negative effect on the entire office and contribute to poor morale.
  • Be welcoming to new employees, management, and visitors.
  • Be inclusive with co-workers, isolating or excluding others can result in a toxic work environment.
  • Check your unconscious biases when interacting with others, don’t let prejudices or stereotypes guide your interactions with others.
  • Own your mistakes. For example, if a complaint is made about your behaviour and you believe that it is justified , apologize and work at correcting the problem so it doesn’t reoccur. If you believe a complaint is unfair, be polite and attempt to deal with the misunderstanding that arose between you and your co-worker. Try to close the matter in a way that allows you to remain on good terms and thank the individual for discussing the matter with you.
  • Touch base with your co-workers on a regular basis.
  • Understand the hierarchy within your organization and how to communicate with the different levels. For example, follow the chain of command in reporting on an issue and respect seniority.

Client/Customer Relationships

The amount of interaction you have with clients or customers may vary significantly depending on your job. If you maintain respectful communication on the job site, it will go a long way to ensuring that your behaviour is appropriate for co-workers, supervisors, and clients who may be on site.

When dealing with clients, always follow these guidelines:

  • Be patient in developing relationships with new or potential clients.
  • Act professionally.
  • Dress appropriately and maintain a good appearance.
  • Be respectful with clients at all times. This includes respecting lifestyles that may be different from your own.
  • Don’t make assumptions about clients or the work that they would like completed.
  • Be an active listener and treat your clients as you would like to be treated.
  • Respond to client questions quickly, be it by returning phone messages, meeting with the client in person, or email.
  • Never make promises that you can’t keep.
  • Work within your area of authority. If discussing work with clients is outside of your area of responsibility, make sure you put them in touch with your supervisor.
  • Document all client requests even if they are very simple. If a client wants to meet or speak to your supervisor, call your supervisor and leave a message or take a note to them. Always follow up on the notes that you take and the status. To ensure that you don’t lose your notes, get into the habit of carrying a small notebook in your pocket or use a similar application on your smart phone. Always remember to follow up with your notes and cross out items when you have completed them.
  • If you are responsible for dealing directly with client requests, document the requests. You may do this by having a client complete a standard form or agreement or by emailing a client after a discussion and asking the client to confirm your message. If changes are later made to the scope of work, be sure they are signed off by both the contractor and the client before the work begins.
  • Work with integrity. If you’ve made a mistake, acknowledge it and work with your employer and/or the client to resolve the issue.
  • If a customer has a complaint, address it without delay. This does not mean you have to provide a solution immediately, since there may be additional information required or you may have to move the complaint forward to a supervisor or other individual. But you should let the customer know that the complaint is being dealt with promptly.

Now complete the Learning Task Self-Test.Self-test icon.


Self-Test 4

  1. Working with others is an essential skill and is integral to almost every job.
    1. True
    2. False
  2. Healthy working relationships and teams have no impact on productivity.
    1. True
    2. False
  3. Relationships and trust between co-workers and clients are built over time.
    1. True
    2. False
  4. What are relationships with co-workers built upon?
    1. Common objectives
    2. Conflict and resolution
    3. Respect and understanding
    4. Common interests and backgrounds
  5. Social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) can have an impact on your career and should be used with caution.
    1. True
    2. False
  6. What does “owning your own mistake” not include?
    1. Taking sole responsibility for a decision made by a colleague or team
    2. Recognizing when you have made an error and informing your superior
    3. Inadvertently saying something inappropriate or hurting someone’s feelings and apologizing
    4. Acknowledging the mistake and thinking of how the situation could have been handled better in the future
  7. The style of communication used should be the same for all individuals in a company, regardless of their title or position.
    1. True
    2. False
  8. How should communication with your clients be conducted?
    1. Friendly and similar to that of fellow employees
    2. Minimal unless otherwise directed by your supervisor
    3. Mindful of the business relationship and respectful at all times
    4. Directed specifically to work and areas where you have responsibility
  9. How should customer requests and complaints be handled?
    1. Acted upon immediately
    2. Directed immediately to your supervisor
    3. Listened to and fully researched before bringing them forward to a superior
    4. Listened to, documented, and brought forward to the appropriate individual according to company policy and procedures
  10. Greeting others genuinely, employing good listening skills, speaking up if someone is being excluded, recognizing, and addressing misunderstandings, engaging positively with other people’s ideas and feelings and validating other’s concerns, are all examples of _________________ behaviours:
    1. Harassment
    2. Bystander
    3. Inclusive
    4. Exclusive

See the Answer Key in the back matter of the textbook for self-test answers.

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