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Build and Strengthen Workplace Relationships in 2021

With everything going on as we enter this new year, it is more important than ever to take care of yourself and the people in your life. Being a member of an organization involves building and nurturing workplace relationships. Not only is it nice to work alongside people you get along with, but stronger relationships will also improve collaboration and communication, meaning greater overall success for the whole team. Below are some tips to help you build and strengthen your workplace relationships in 2021:

Words matter

It’s not just what you say, but it’s how you say it. Although you can’t always control how someone is going to interpret what you say, you can avoid certain words or phrases that can make it more likely for someone to interpret your message negatively. Read our article on fighting words for a specific list. Given that most people are still working remotely this year, it’s even more important to choose your words wisely since you can’t rely on face-to-face cues when sending emails. This is especially important when discussing sensitive topics, such as giving feedback. Putting a little extra thought into your words can go a long way in maintaining healthy relationships at work!

Everyone’s unique

One of the best ways to strengthen workplace relationships is by understanding the communication styles of your colleagues. Because everyone has a different style, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula on how you should approach relationships with people at work. Fortunately, tools such as the DISC can help you get to know your colleagues and can serve as a guide to navigating different styles. For example, employees high on “I” typically enjoy socializing, so asking “I” coworkers about their weekend before a meeting could help strengthen that relationship. However, employees high on “C” respond best to being detail-oriented and discussing relevant issues, while also tending to be more private, so being well-prepared for a meeting would be a better approach in that case.

Emotional intelligence

One skill that can help improve your working relationships is emotional intelligence (EQ). Emotional intelligence refers to how well you can identify and manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Employees who are more aware of their emotions can manage them to remain calm under pressure, make better choices, and respond more effectively to constructive criticism. This can lead to less conflict or “snapping” at others. By better identifying others’ emotions, you’re less likely to interpret their words or actions negatively and can have greater empathy for your colleagues. Luckily, EQ is a skill you can work on with an expert coach or by attending a specialized training.

Virtually building relationships

Of course, we can’t talk about nurturing workplace relationships in 2021 without mentioning the infamous Zoom happy hours. Social events were a key part of getting to know your colleagues outside of the work context, so naturally many teams have tried to recreate this experience over video chat. However, it’s just not the same being in a 20 person online meeting room when only one person can talk at a time. To make virtual socializing feel more natural, try using break out rooms to mimic the way people usually go off into little groups for small talk. If these events still feel awkward, try planning activities ahead of time. Here is a list of fun activities you can try at your next happy hour!


If building your relationships at work is one of your goals for the year, remember to choose your words wisely, get to know people’s preferred communication styles, build up your emotional intelligence, and get creative when planning virtual social events. To help you gain insight into your own communication style, Apex is giving away a free DISC assessment AND a free 15 minute debrief session to help you interpret the results. Click here to complete a request form and we’ll contact you. We look forward to speaking with you!

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