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  Building Productive Relationships on the Job
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Monday October, 15 2007

Doug White, Robert Half International

Do you feel that having a close-knit bond with coworkers keeps you focused, engaged, and productive? If so, you're in good company. In a recent Robert Half International survey, 63 percent of employees and 57 percent of executives polled said that office productivity increases when colleagues are friends.

But it's important to cultivate connections with the right people. Following are a few types of colleagues to make friends with -- and some to keep at a distance.

The Best of Friends

The Handy Helper. Sustaining positive relationships with fellow employees can be a lifesaver when you're faced with challenges. For instance, it's beneficial to have a trusted and reliable friend in the office who you can lean on for support and assistance when you feel overburdened. While lone-wolf workers might be left to fend for themselves during a deadline emergency, professionals who've built rapport with coworkers have no shortage of helping hands to call upon.

The Caring Critic. Having an in-office ally who can offer feedback and constructive criticism on your ideas or projects can be invaluable. Getting an honest opinion from someone who has your best interests at heart -- and understands the inner workings of your organization -- can help you fine-tune your work so you can make the biggest impact and best impression.

The Veteran. Forging a friendship with a successful and upbeat veteran is another smart move. In times of crisis or uncertainty, a time-tested and cool-headed professional "who's been down this road before" can impart wisdom, in addition to a sense of calm and perspective. These types of tenured workers can help you hone new abilities and maintain a healthy, positive attitude.

Problem Pals

The Party Pooper. Just as the upbeat attitude of a perennial optimist will rub off, fraternizing with negative naysayers can influence your feelings about the job. Even if they are perfectly pleasant to you, be careful about aligning yourself with incorrigible whiners who constantly complain or dish dirt. They may not be entirely trustworthy, and being chummy with them could lead management to peg you as a "bad apple," too.

The Talkative Time Waster. Never forget that you are at work to, well, work. In general, be mindful of how much time you spend socializing. If you're not careful, you can unwittingly allow chatty friends to become big distractions. Don't let water cooler conversations consume too much of your time or distract you from other duties. (You can always catch up with a coworker over coffee before work or grab a bite to eat at the end of the day.)

The Favor Thief. "The only way to have a friend is to be one," said Ralph Waldo Emerson. It's an important adage to consider in the workplace. If you're constantly pitching in for a so-called "friend" who never returns the favor, it's probably time to re-evaluate the relationship. Likewise, if a colleague assisted you in your hour of need, don't forget to reciprocate -- even if the person's request for backup comes at an inopportune time.

Surrounding yourself with positive and supportive friends at work can help you be more productive and happier on the job. And while you may develop close bonds with certain individuals, remember to be nice and affable to all of your colleagues. You never know whose help you might need one day.

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