Whether they’re deep friendships, mentorships, advisors or coffee buddies, the connections we make at work are critical to our success, says Richard Edge
A primary job of an HR professional is to care for the humans we encounter in our businesses. We are taught to listen respectfully and always value every opinion and experience. But how often do we engage in deep, meaningful relationships within our careers outside the expectations of our work duties?
Over the years in my various HR roles, from junior to director, national lead and then CEO and founder, I have come to one concise realisation: if we don’t build solid and significant relationships in our careers, we will end up lonely.
It’s widely accepted that to reach your true career potential; you need the help of others to be on the path to success. A social psychologist at Harvard University even found that your friends account for as much as 90 per cent of your success or failure in life. Considering most of us spend a large proportion of our lives committed to our careers, it makes rational sense to commit to our working relationships too. After all, they are the pillars where we can alleviate our fears, reckon with self-doubt, ease insecurities, and bounce ideas – all of which are achieved through a fundamental understanding of mutual trust and respect.
You may think this is obvious or ask why this has particular significance. We now find ourselves in the centre of unprecedented disruption and unpredictability. And while the span of our relationships has increased due to the reach of social media and technology, they have also dissipated in depth.
The global uncertainty happening currently is affecting everyone in various ways. From financial unease and downturn, housing concerns, inflation reaching record highs, health issues post-pandemic and the mental health epidemic, to the cost of living plunging people below the poverty line – these daily happenings are compounding, resulting in large amounts of stress for so many. Therefore, the need for solid relationships has never been greater, especially in our work lives, almost in a way that requires a career family.
The power of relationships
Building strong and trusting relationships with colleagues or your network boils down to knowing you have somewhere to turn when things go south. This is a reciprocal engagement that allows others to trust in you in their hour of need also. Ask yourself, whom do I turn to when I need to talk? The truth is many of us bottle it up until the problem or stress becomes too much to handle, resulting in time off sick, depletion of earnings and potentially loss of job. But those who form healthy business relationships, be they deep friendships, mentorships, advisors, or coffee buddies, tend to turn to these relationships to lean on and vice versa.
Relationships are not something that can only be developed at an individual level; it is a pivoting point that all leaders should invest in when building culture. Leaders must foster positive relationships within their organisations, exemplify what ‘good’ looks like, and set a healthy standard for working culture.
But why should leadership be the front runner for this? Because the principle of motivation for many employees is driven by autonomy, mastery and purpose. This motivation is achievable when leaders build good culture and good relationships with happy employees. We can’t change much about the uncertainty of the present times and what’s to come, but we can control how we navigate them by remaining together rather than apart. It is likely that all of us, especially in our careers, will be impacted by current world affairs, and even if we are not, at some point down the line, you will be affected by something you may find debilitating.
A few years ago, I found myself in a position like this that could have left me in an incredibly dark place, were it not for the trusted commitment and allyship of a brilliantly helpful member of my network: one to whom I will be forever grateful for being there in my time of need. Without that intervention, the last eight years of my professional career would not have existed. That relationship has meant that my career has fortunately continued to go from strength to strength. I have focused on building and maintaining authentic, lasting relationships with my network each day since. I would not have been writing this article today if I had not reached out. Who can you reach out to?
The benefits of good relationships in business are tenfold. They are motivationally fulfilling and encourage better outcomes and decision-making, resulting in exceptional innovations, improving mastery, and increasing resilience during uncertainty.
Relationships in business are one investment you will always see a return on.