When Harvard College career adviser Gorich Ng set about to author his book, The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right, he did not assume to have all the answers. Instead, as a former Boston Consulting Group (BCG) employee, he did what any good management consultant would do: he sought information from the people who had experiences with the issues he wished to address.
Building work relationships is about practicing
Ng interviewed over 500 professionals about their experiences in building work relationships in this current era of remote work. In the absence of being in the same physical office environment, obviously, the traditional rules of building work relationships and allies have become largely outdated. Yet, as Ng found, new ones are emerging, and he identified seven of them.
Each one of the seven tactics might fall into the broader category: be a decent person. Yet, even so, each requires a conscious recognition in today’s busy business life that these practices really matter and require pro-active effort.
1. Praise publicly
The first two combine into one, and that is how we speak about our colleagues. His findings: When you have praise for a colleague, issue it publicly. Such recognition might seem a triviality, but it is not. Recognition is important and nearly every employee appreciates it. Offering praise publicly builds good will.
2. Counsel privately
Yet, when it comes to correcting a colleague, the opposite is true. No one wants to be corrected in the presence of others. Instead, offer that counsel privately; it demonstrates that you are not out to make them look bad. They will appreciate it.
3. Be generous
The following two suggestions might fall under that category: be generous. Be generous with your assistance to colleagues. A colleague struggling with something will appreciate your support. Lend it.
Also, when you have information that has practical or obvious use to colleagues, do not succumb to the temptation to hoard it. Share it. “There’s a good chance they don’t know what you know and will appreciate you looking out for them,” Ng writes.
5. Provide public credit
The fifth relates to group communication. Be sure to amplify the comments of colleagues and afford them public credit for good ideas. Like recognition, reinforcing a colleague’s good idea in a conference call or meeting and properly acknowledging their role in identifying it is generous and will be appreciated.
6. Share contacts and make introductions
Two final tactics to win allies at work: Share contacts and make introductions. Connecting others to your contacts reflects both on the magnitude of your professional network and also on your generosity in sharing it through introductions.
7. Thank you
Finally, as most of our parents counseled us growing up, don’t forget those two important words: Thank you. It would be a misguided oversight to assume that someone who does something worthy of gratitude knows you appreciate it. Make sure they do because, as Ng writes, in doing so “you’re making others feel good, giving others assurance that their good deeds will not go unrecognized, and, in turn, increasing the odds of others wanting to help you again.”
More value in remote working
Each of these seven tactics worked in the pre-pandemic office world. In today’s increasingly remote work environment, however, they take on disproportionate value in the absence of the physical proximity that traditional pre-pandemic work life afforded.