11 Nine to Five

Meet Ali and Jo

Ali and Jo are business partners for an online company. They have been getting a lot of their new customers from social media platforms. Ali and Jo have been friends since high school and they never thought their business would be making millions. They have been working overtime to keep up with customers’ demand for their products. However, Ali and Jo’s communication behaviors have gotten more hostile and aggressive because each person views the company’s future differently. Ali would like to sell the business to a future investor, while Jo would like to keep it going since it has been so successful. As Ali and Jo have conflicting viewpoints on the future of the company, their employees have also felt stressed and anxious, because they don’t know which person to support or follow. Ali and Jo’s communication behaviors and tension with each other are jeopardizing their friendship, their business, and their relationships with their employees and customers.

All Work and No Play?

Interpersonal relationships in the workplace are critical for building a healthy and productive work environment (Reina et al., 2023). Strong relationships among colleagues can create a sense of community and help promote employee satisfaction and retention (Lall-Trail et al., 2023). However, conflicts and disagreements can arise, which can negatively impact workplace relationships and overall productivity. In this chapter, we will explore the importance of workplace interpersonal relationships, the common challenges that arise, and strategies for managing workplace relationships.

11.1 The Importance of Workplace Interpersonal Relationships

Interpersonal relationships play a crucial role in the success of any workplace. A positive work environment is fostered by positive relationships between colleagues and superiors. Workplaces have several types of relationships such as co-workers, co-managers (e.g., Ali & Jo), and work spouses (which are similar to romantic spouses but strictly professional).  It’s essential to understand that employees are human beings with emotions, feelings, and personal lives that can affect their performance at work. Building positive relationships at work can help create a positive work culture, boost employee morale, and increase productivity (Lall-Trail et al., 2023). Employees who feel valued, supported, and understood by their colleagues and superiors are more likely to be motivated and engaged in their work. This, in turn, can lead to better job satisfaction and retention rates (Brief & Weiss, 2002). Moreover, positive workplace relationships can also facilitate open communication, leading to a better understanding of each other’s perspectives, ideas, and feedback. This can help foster a sense of collaboration and teamwork, leading to increased creativity, problem-solving, and innovation. The importance of workplace interpersonal relationships cannot be overstated as they can impact both personal and organizational success. Companies that prioritize creating positive workplace relationships will likely see the benefits in increased productivity, employee retention, and overall success (Zaph & Holz, 2006).


What are some of the challenges of workplace or group-work relationships you’ve experienced?

11.2 The Consequences of Neglecting Relationships

While positive workplace interpersonal relationships can have a significant positive impact on the success of any organization, there are also challenges to building and maintaining these relationships (Lutgen-Sandvik et al., 2011). One of the most significant challenges is the diversity of personalities, backgrounds, and experiences among colleagues. Differences in communication styles, values, and work habits can create misunderstandings and conflicts, making it challenging to build positive relationships. Additionally, workplace stress, competition, and power dynamics can further complicate relationships, making it difficult to maintain positive connections with colleagues and superiors. Personal issues such as jealousy, resentment, and unresolved conflicts can also strain workplace relationships, creating negative energy and impacting overall team performance. The pandemic and remote working arrangements can also present challenges to building and maintaining workplace relationships. Working from home can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection, making it more challenging to develop positive relationships with colleagues (Reina et al., 2023). However, remote work has also presented opportunities for companies to leverage technology to create virtual team-building activities, enhancing remote team connections. Overall, the challenges of building and maintaining positive workplace interpersonal relationships are numerous, but with patience, understanding, and effective communication, these challenges can be overcome, leading to more positive and productive workplaces.

What is it like to have you as a co-worker?

Do you want to know your workplace communication style. Take the quiz here. What do the results tell you about how might approach your daily tasks, meetings, and goals? Can you think of a colleague with a different style?

11.3 Different Types of Workplace Communication

Effective communication is crucial for any workplace to function efficiently and productively. In this section, we will discuss the different types of workplace communication.

Verbal communication is the most common type of communication in the workplace. It involves exchanging information, ideas, and thoughts through spoken words. Verbal communication, which relates to words and language, can be formal or informal and can occur face-to-face or over the phone. Verbal communication typically happens through speaking with others. For instance, when Ali and Jo have meetings with their employees, there is a lot of verbal communication that takes place because everyone wants to share their concerns.

Written communication involves exchanging information, ideas, and thoughts through written words. This can include emails, memos, reports, and other written documents. Written communication can be used to provide detailed information, convey complex ideas, and ensure that important details are not forgotten. After each meeting, Ali and Jo electronically send out meeting minutes. This is an example of written communication.

Nonverbal communication refers to any communication that does not involve spoken or written words. This can include body language, facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice. Non-verbal communication can convey emotions, attitudes, and intentions and is often used to support verbal communication (Miller et al., 2007). Even though Ali appears to be pleasant in meetings, Jo will often sit with her arms crossed and have a disgruntled facial expression every time Ali talks.  This is an example of how nonverbal communication can convey certain emotions.

Formal communication is a structured, official type of communication that follows specific rules and procedures. It can include written documents such as policies, procedures, and company announcements. Formal communication is often used to convey important information or updates to a large group of people. When Ali and Jo accept a business contract, they have formal communication with the client to ensure that everything is legally covered.

Informal communication is casual, unstructured communication that occurs between colleagues in the workplace. It can include chats in the break room, social media posts, or even gossip. Informal communication can be helpful in building relationships and improving team morale but can also lead to misunderstandings or miscommunications (Teven, 2010). For instance, when Ali and Jo’s employees meet casually after work for drinks and chat. This could be considered informal communication.

Upward communication involves communication from employees to their managers or supervisors. This can include feedback, suggestions, or concerns about the workplace. Upward communication is essential for creating a positive work environment and can help managers to make informed decisions (Kelly & McDonald, 2019). When Ali and Jo’s employees have frustrations with the new operating system, they can send emails to Ali and Jo to let them know their concerns, this is upward communication.

Downward communication involves communication from managers or supervisors to their employees. This can include instructions, expectations, or performance feedback. Downward communication is essential for maintaining productivity and ensuring that employees are aware of what is expected of them (Kelly & McDonald, 2019). When Ali and Jo want to incorporate new policies for the company, they will send an email notification and this is considered downward communication.

Lateral communication involves communication between colleagues at the same level in the workplace. This can include collaboration on projects, sharing ideas, or providing feedback to each other. Lateral communication is essential for creating a supportive work environment and improving teamwork (Kelly & McDonald, 2019). For example, when employees of the company meet for an office meeting and provide their thoughts, this is considered lateral communication.


11.4 Effective Communication in the Workplace

Effective communication strategies are essential in the workplace, as they enable colleagues and superiors to exchange information, ideas, and thoughts in a clear and concise manner (Teven, 2010). In this section, we will explore some effective communication strategies that can be implemented in the workplace to improve communication and build positive relationships.

Be Clear and Concise

One of the most important communication strategies is to be clear and concise (Lord & Kanfer, 2002). When communicating with colleagues and superiors, it is essential to provide information that is easy to understand, without any confusion or ambiguity. This can be achieved by using simple language, avoiding jargon or technical terms, and breaking down complex ideas into smaller, more manageable pieces of information.

Listen Actively

Another effective communication strategy is active listening (Bodie & Jones, 2012). Active listening involves paying close attention to what the other person is saying and responding in a way that shows that you understand and respect their opinions. Active listening also involves asking questions to clarify any doubts or misunderstandings, and summarizing what has been said to ensure that you have understood the message correctly.

Choose the Appropriate Communication Channel

Selecting the appropriate communication channel is another critical communication strategy (McGloin et al., 2022). Different communication channels are suitable for different situations. For example, Ali might email Jo and it may be suitable for conveying information, while face-to-face communication may be more effective for resolving conflicts or providing feedback. It is important to choose the appropriate communication channel to ensure that the message is conveyed effectively and efficiently, because sometimes face-to-face conversations are better since there are more verbal and nonverbal cues for potentially sensitive issues like employee reviews. Emails can be generally better for items of interests such as collecting ideas for department meeting agendas from co-workers.

Be Mindful of Body Language

Body language is an essential aspect of communication, and it can significantly impact how the message is received. Being mindful of body language involves using open body language, maintaining eye contact, and avoiding negative body languages such as crossed arms or fidgeting. This can help to build trust and rapport, leading to positive workplace relationships (Teven, 2007).

Provide Feedback and Encouragement

Providing feedback and encouragement is another effective communication strategy that can be used to build positive workplace relationships (Seo et al., 2004). Feedback can be provided to colleagues or superiors to help them improve their performance, and encouragement can be provided to show appreciation and recognition for a job well done. This can lead to improved motivation and job satisfaction, leading to a positive workplace culture.

Be Respectful and Professional

Finally, being respectful and professional is a crucial communication strategy that should be practiced in the workplace. This involves treating colleagues and superiors with respect and professionalism, avoiding negative or derogatory comments, and refraining from engaging in gossip or rumors. A respectful and professional workplace culture can lead to improved communication, trust, and positive workplace relationships.

In conclusion, effective communication strategies are essential in the workplace, as they enable colleagues and superiors to exchange information, ideas, and thoughts in a clear and concise manner. By implementing the communication strategies outlined above, workplaces can improve communication, build positive workplace relationships, and ultimately, achieve success.


three co-workers smiling while sitting together at a table

Workplace relationships can impact your life outside of work. For example, you might befriend your co-workers. What other ways might your work relationships impact your private life? 

11.5 Strategies for Managing Workplace Relationships

Maintaining positive workplace relationships requires intentional effort and strategies. One of the most important strategies is effective communication (Teven, 2007). Communication should be clear, honest, and respectful, whether it is face-to-face or virtual. Regular check-ins, feedback sessions, and team-building activities can also help improve workplace relationships. These activities can range from simple social events, such as virtual coffee breaks or team lunches, to more formal team-building exercises, such as workshops and retreats. These activities provide opportunities for colleagues to get to know each other better, share ideas, and work collaboratively, fostering a sense of community and teamwork.

Additionally, it’s important to establish clear expectations and boundaries, such as work hours, deadlines, and individual roles and responsibilities. This can help prevent misunderstandings and conflicts that can strain workplace relationships. Conflict resolution strategies should also be in place to address any conflicts that may arise. These strategies encompass a range of approaches such as mediation, which involves a neutral third party facilitating constructive dialogue and conflict resolution between involved parties. Open communication, on the other hand, encourages transparent and honest sharing of ideas, concerns, and perspectives among team members. Lastly, compromise entails finding common ground and reaching mutually agreeable solutions that address the needs and interests of all parties involved. These strategies collectively contribute to fostering a harmonious and productive team dynamic. Lastly, it’s essential to celebrate successes and acknowledge individual and team achievements. Recognizing the contributions and efforts of colleagues can help foster a sense of appreciation and motivation, leading to improved workplace relationships (Seo et al., 2004). Overall, the key strategies for maintaining positive workplace relationships include effective communication, regularly team-building activities, establishing clear expectations and boundaries, conflict resolution strategies, and recognizing individual and team achievements.


When was the last time you participated in team-building? What was it like?

There are several strategies for managing workplace relationships and promoting positive interactions among colleagues. These strategies include:

Team building activities can help foster positive workplace relationships by promoting teamwork, collaboration, and a sense of community. Team building activities can include group projects, team lunches, and social events. Team building can build trust with employees and also help gain a better understanding of other colleagues. Team building offers various advantages such as improved communication, enhanced planning abilities, increased employee motivation, and strengthened collaboration among employees. Engaging in enjoyable activities that allow individuals to perceive one another from a fresh perspective enables them to establish connections in a unique environment.

Conflicts are inevitable in the workplace, but how they are managed can make all the difference. It is important to address conflicts promptly and professionally, by actively listening, expressing oneself clearly, and seeking common ground. Mediation and conflict resolution training can be valuable tools for managing conflicts in the workplace (Teven, 2010). As in our example between Ali and Jo, they both disagree about the future of the company. They have to figure out a way to work together so that their employees don’t feel anxious or stressed, otherwise, the business will most likely fail.

Cultural competence involves understanding and respecting the cultural differences among colleagues (Kwantes et al., 2017).  Recognizing and valuing diversity within the workplace is of paramount importance. It entails acknowledging and appreciating the unique backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, and identities of individuals in the organization. By actively striving to cultivate a culture of inclusivity and respect, employers and employees alike contribute to creating an environment where everyone feels welcomed, accepted, and valued. This involves fostering open-mindedness, promoting equitable opportunities, embracing differences, and ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and with dignity. By embracing diversity and fostering an inclusive atmosphere, organizations can harness the collective power of varied perspectives and talents, leading to innovation, collaboration, and overall organizational success. Knowing that different cultures respect and appreciate different communication behaviors can help make workplaces more inclusive and satisfying.

Workplace stress can contribute to conflicts and negative workplace relationships (Rebillon et al., 2023). In order to effectively manage stress, it is beneficial to employ a range of strategies. Time management plays a crucial role by helping individuals allocate their time efficiently, ensuring that important tasks are given appropriate attention and deadlines are met. Prioritizing tasks allows individuals to focus on what truly matters, enabling them to tackle high-priority responsibilities first. Additionally, incorporating self-care techniques into one’s routine can significantly contribute to stress management. Engaging in regular exercise not only enhances physical well-being but also releases endorphins, which promote a sense of well-being and reduce stress levels. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, can help individuals cultivate present-moment awareness, reduce anxiety, and improve mental clarity. Furthermore, relaxation techniques, such as listening to calming music or taking soothing baths, can provide much-needed relief from stress and tension. By adopting a comprehensive approach that includes time management, task prioritization, and self-care techniques, individuals can effectively manage stress and promote their overall well-being. In recent years, organizations have had employee assistance programs and subscriptions for a variety of mental health apps and resources.  Once companies know how to deal with stress, their workers will more likely be happier and the company will be more productive.

Expressing appreciation and gratitude can help foster positive workplace relationships (Andersen & Martin, 1995). It is important to acknowledge and recognize the contributions of colleagues, whether it is for small gestures or significant acts. Expressing appreciation can create a sense of connection and positive feelings toward each other, which can strengthen workplace relationships.

11.6 Ways to Increase Workplace Satisfaction

It’s essential to identify what factors contribute to your job satisfaction. For example, it could be having a sense of purpose, working in a positive environment, feeling valued, having a good work-life balance, or feeling challenged in your role. Once you’ve identified these factors, you can take steps to improve them.

Also, to increase job satisfaction to focus on building positive relationships with your colleagues and managers (Wang et al., 2023). A supportive and collaborative work environment can make a big difference in how you feel about your job. You can also try to find a mentor or coach who can help you develop your skills and provide guidance on how to succeed in your role.

Another way to increase job satisfaction is to focus on your personal and professional growth. Consider taking courses or attending workshops that can help you improve your skills and advance your career. Set goals for yourself and work towards achieving them. This can give you a sense of accomplishment and help you feel more fulfilled in your role.

It’s important to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Make time for hobbies, exercise, and socializing with friends and family. This can help you recharge and prevent burnout, which can lead to decreased job satisfaction. If you are unable to have a healthy work-life balance, then try to aim for a healthier work-life integration perspective.

Overall, increasing job satisfaction involves identifying what factors contribute to it, building positive relationships, focusing on personal and professional growth, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. By taking these steps, you can improve your overall job satisfaction and feel more fulfilled in your career. Job satisfaction can help prevent stress, burnout, and negative effects on your mental health.

Ali and Jo created a business without thinking about the relationships within the workplace. Workplace interpersonal relationships are critical for building a healthy and productive work environment. Positive relationships can foster a supportive work environment, where colleagues feel valued, respected, and appreciated. However, conflicts and disagreements can arise, which can negatively impact workplace relationships and overall productivity. Strategies for managing workplace relationships include communication, team building, conflict resolution, cultural competence, stress management, and appreciation. By prioritizing positive workplace relationships, organizations can promote employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. Effective workplace communication involves active listening, clear and concise language, written communication, cultural awareness, and feedback. By utilizing these strategies, workplaces can improve communication, build positive workplace relationships, and ultimately, achieve success.

The Chapter 11 MixtapeA tape player with headphones resting on top sits under the words "chapter 11 mixtape."

        •   Donna Summer – “She Works Hard for the Money”

        •   Dire Straits – “Money for Nothing”

        •   Huey Lewis & The News – “Working for a Livin'”

        •   Loverboy – “Working for the Weekend”

        •   The Bangles – “Manic Monday”

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In Your Eyes: Communicating in Close Relationships Copyright © 2023 by Sydney Brammer; Ryan Martinez; and Narissra Punyanunt-Carter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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