Whether you’re a new hire or a long-time veteran, it can seem like a daunting task to make new friends on the job. With work constantly demanding your attention, interpersonal relationships can take a back seat, and you’ll end up missing plenty of chances to develop rapport with your teammates.
But beyond just not making new friends, failing to get to know the people you work with can also have a negative impact on your career and work performance. Teams that know each other well work better as a group. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and know how to help each other where needed. And they also keep each other sane and happy during tough times at the office.
If you’re having difficulty developing your workplace relationships, there are a few quick and easy ways to get off on the right foot. Here’s how to do it:
Working across departments on cooperative projects is a great way to become familiar with co-workers outside your team. Most large projects are multifaceted enough that they’d require bits of work from various areas in your company. For example, you may be working on developing a landing page for a new product offering by your company. This offers you the opportunity to work with the salespeople and marketers in your company who will be writing the copy and selling the product you’re building the site for. Make sure you take full advantage of these opportunities to meet brand new colleagues.
Show them your best effort and your hard work. Have meaningful discussions about how to move a project forward. Offer to teach them something you’re really good at, and ask for tutorials on things you want to learn. The mutual exchange of information can be a valuable boost both to your career and to your rapport with them. And when the project goes off without a hitch, organize an after-work celebratory happy hour or dinner.
Do a lunch-and-learn
Got a skill that you’d love to share? Maybe you’re an Excel wizard, or maybe you’re a search engine marketing guru. Whatever it is you’re awesome at, it’s likely that someone else in your company wants to learn about it for their own personal edification. A great way to share that knowledge and meet new colleagues is to teach them what you know in a lunch-and-learn type of setting.
To organize it, talk to whoever runs your company’s internal newsletter and ask them if they’d be willing to send out a quick email blast about your offer. Or if that’s not an option, just post some flyers around the break room. Even if just a few people go, you’ve already met someone new. At the lunch-and-learn, teach a short, focused lesson about a specific topic and leave some time for questions and answers. Afterwards, break out for lunch and sit with anyone who wants to learn more from you. Conversation will inevitably go beyond just the lesson, and you’ll get to know each other.
Bond over common hobbies
A great way to bond with your colleagues is over your mutual hobbies. Often, people at work will form little formal or informal groups as a way to chat about their hobbies. Whether you’re a big-time video gamer, a lover of all things soccer, or even into dancing, chances are you’ll find someone who shares your passion on the job.
Big fan of baseball? Notice that a couple of colleagues are talking about the next Yankees game? Walk up to them and start chatting about the latest minor league call-up, or suggest a trip to the next game. Take the initiative to start these kinds of gatherings and bond outside the office. It’s a great way to introduce yourself and develop a friendly relationship. It also gives you something to bond over during lunch or coffee breaks.
Join the lunch crowd
Every office has that one group of colleagues who always seem to go on lunch breaks together, sit at the same table, and has loud, raucous conversations. While this group may seem impenetrable to an outsider, remember that you’re not in high school anymore. Go and join them the next time they go for burritos. A simple “mind if I join you?” will get you right in - no one ever says no - and you’ll be able to join the conversation, learn more about them, and have a fun time.
This group is also likely to go to happy hours, mixers, and dinners together. By joining them, you’ll not only get to interact with them outside the work environment, but also with their friends and other professionals they invite along the way. This is an easy, low-stress way to network and build new relationships. Have a few drinks, have a laugh, and chat the night away. Just don’t be the most drunk person at the occasion - that never looks good.
Burn the midnight oil
Deadlines will sometimes have you working overtime hours just so you can finish up a project. Whether it’s because you’ve fallen behind, or because you want to add extra polish to your work, you’ll want to work past normal hours to get things done. While it may be a good option for you to do so at home, work those extra hours in the office instead.
As you do this, you’ll meet a few people in your company who are also going through crunchtime. Understand that they have a ton of work and watch for hints that they’re not in the mood to speak. But at points in the night, you’ll be there for each other to commiserate, provide help, grab a quick bite to eat, and even just focus on something other than work for a few minutes. You’ll find that hard work and mutual suffering can build a close bond over just a few days.
Just don’t overdo it. For the sake of not just your health, but also your productivity, keep your long nights at work to those occasions when you’re racing towards a deadline. Staying late every night prevents you from recharging your batteries and getting back to work with energy the next day. It just turns into a perpetual cycle where you’ll underperform during the day and force yourself to stay overtime at night.
Help each other out
If you’re struggling on a work project, there’s no better way to break through than with the help of a co-worker. On the other hand, you’ll also have times in your work where you’re in a lull and have not much valuable work to do. Asking for or offering help is a great way to develop a valuable working relationship, as it gives you the opportunity to cooperate on a common problem.
When you need help, look for someone who looks like they’re between projects and have some free time. Ask for small bits of help, such as a brainstorming session or a quick lesson on a tool you aren’t familiar with. Keep the ask small but valuable and highly specific to their skillset. Don’t ask for things they can’t deliver on.
If they look like they need help - it’s easy to see the signs of a struggling colleague - and you have free time, offer your assistance. The same type of help you’d ask for would work. Don’t take on more work than you can chew, and always finish your own tasks, minimal as they may be, before committing to help. Work on things you’re capable of completing, offer sound advice, and always complete work to the best of your ability.
An atmosphere of collaboration and cooperation is a great way to build strong working relationships with your colleagues. Even better, they’ll be people you’ll become comfortable with around in the office and beyond.