Fostering Positive Relationships with Your Boss and Coworkers

Dr. Ryan Giffen

Remote or not, the time we spend at work can be a source of stress and dissatisfaction. Yet, we often believe our coworkers, managers, or our boss are the ones to cause these issues. It’s no wonder that McKinsey’s survey found that 75 percent of participants believe that the most stressful aspect of their job was their immediate boss. Although they can be challenging to handle, can employees make the relationship with their supervisors better?

As a worker, you have much more power in your hands than you think. With your actions, behavior, and energy, you can make your time at the workplace happier. For instance, having friends at work makes you seven times likelier to be engaged in your job and enjoy a positive atmosphere. Interpersonal relationships and relationships with management are the two most significant drivers of workplace satisfaction.

You might think you can’t do much about how your boss and colleagues treat you, but that’s far from true. Below are 11 way's you can foster positive relationships at work.

1. Have a Friendly Attitude

Perhaps obvious, but people often forget to be cordial and maintain a friendly approach to coworkers and supervisors. The daily tasks, tight deadlines, and demanding responsibilities can make anyone stressed and uninterested in the persons around them.

If you find it hard to handle a situation under pressure, you might even act defensively and hostile towards people in the workplace. But that can make things even more challenging as you could alienate yourself. As a result, others could see you as a negative person and be unwilling to know you better. It’s crucial to keep a smile on your face even when juggling various assignments and have an optimistic mindset.

2. Reach Out when Someone Needs Help

When someone needs your help, show your willingness to do it. Avoid ignoring when people are struggling and think about possible solutions. Many employees see their coworkers as competition, but that creates hostility and prevents forming connections. Instead of doing nothing or using the opportunity to ensure someone fails, be a better person and help them alleviate the problem.

If your teammate is about to miss a deadline and you have enough time to assist with their task, reach out to them. Even your boss will like your cooperative attitude and appreciate your emotional intelligence.

3. Be Enthusiastic and Take the Initiative

Upper management generally acknowledge employees who are bold and love to take the initiative. If you want to develop a good relationship with your boss, one of the best ways is to be proactive.  Show your enthusiasm for the job you do and express your ideas. That way, you’ll demonstrate that you’re not there only to complete your tasks and go home. Instead, your boss will notice your proactiveness and that you add value to their business.

4. Respect the Deadlines and Be Punctual

Regardless of how hard your day was, always show up and avoid being late. Respect your coworkers, boss, and their time. Whenever an employee sleeps in or misses a deadline, someone else will have to do their part. If that happens often, people could see you as unreliable and disorganized.  Complete your assignments timely and ensure no process is lagging because of you. Your boss and colleagues should know they can count on you. That helps instill trust and foster positive relationships.

5. Tailor Your Communication Style

Each person has their unique style of solving problems, communication, and approach to things. If you want to understand your coworkers and boss better, learn theirs and identify the best way to respond. Tailor your communication style to people in the workplace as that allows you to build rapport and connect with them on a deeper level. Some people won’t say much, expecting you to take the initiative and understand the problem without their assistance.

Others will probe you with challenging questions and test your listening skills. Moreover, if you want to foster good relationships with your coworkers, pay attention to their needs, be assertive, and engage in a small chat with them.

6. Show Your Interest in People in the Workplace

Many employees feel alienated due to their inability or unwillingness to communicate with their coworkers and boss. Yet, good relationships don’t appear on their own. You should plant a seed and nurture these connections.

Show your interest in the people around you. Ask them how their day is going and if they need help with something. Even if you’re an introverted person, get out of your comfort zone and approach your colleagues to strike up a conversation with them.

Instead of doing your job and going home, engage in events in the workplace and talk with people. Thus, foster professional yet cordial communication with your boss rather than avoiding any conversation with them.

7. Avoid Saying No to Assignments Outside Your Job Description

Whenever you say no to a task, you risk making your boss or manager look incompetent. That isn’t to say you should say yes to everything, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

However, you should see every assignment as an opportunity to learn something and adopt new skills. Your superiors will sometimes suggest undertakings that might terrify you at first. Yet, if you express your doubts and ask what’s the best way to do it, they will appreciate your effort. It’s why instead of saying a strict no, think about what you need to complete a task and how that will make a more varied professional.

8. Learn Your Boss’s Communication Methods

Do you have a habit of sending an email to your boss for every doubt you have? But what if they loathe communicating via email and prefer in-person communication?

It’s crucial to pay attention to what makes your boss tick and what’s their favorite communication method. They might prefer to organize a meeting and avoid talking about minor issues when it’s not time for that.

Avoid reaching out to them for every question, especially if you can find the answer by asking your supervisor, coworkers or doing a quick Google search. Look for cues that tell how your boss prefers to communicate with employees and leverage that information.

9. Go the Extra Mile

Although you might feel tempted to do your part, go home, and forget about the work, that could send a message to your boss that you hate your job. Consider how you can contribute to team assignments beyond what you do. Think about the business needs and how you can add value. Brainstorm unique ideas and surprise your boss with innovation. You don’t have to stay after work every time but identify better ways to complete tasks.

Schedule time with your boss or manager to present potential solutions or volunteer for undertakings outside your job description or department. As a result, your superiors will perceive you as a proactive employee and appreciate the additional effort you put into your work.

10. Ask for Feedback

The best way to improve your skills and boost performance is to know what you do well and what requires more attention. However, you can’t always understand that on your own. It’s why you should reach out to your boss or manager and ask for feedback. Instead of waiting for annual surveys or feedback sessions, schedule a short meeting. That’s an opportunity to keep your boss updated and let them know how your projects are going. Moreover, this allows you to tweak your project approach timely and present the best results when you’re ready.

11. Participate in Coworker Gatherings

Whenever you have an opportunity to meet up with your colleagues and spend time getting to know them, use it. If someone is organizing a gathering or there’s a team building, sign up and participate.

The best way to develop happy relationships with your coworkers is to hang out with them outside of the office. That’s when everyone feels more relaxed and eager to discuss non-work-related issues. When someone invites you for a coffee or lunch break, avoid saying no, or you leave an impression of an aloof individual. Moreover, you can take the initiative and organize gatherings that allow you to meet your colleagues and create new connections.


Happy workplace relationships are essential for a positive atmosphere that boosts employee performance and makes them feel more comfortable at work. However, it should never be one side only that works to foster these connections.

As an employee, you might think that human resources (HR), your boss, or your manager have complete responsibility for the employer-worker relationship. But you can also influence how your superiors and coworkers perceive you and treat you.

To forge good workplace relationships, you must show your interest in others, be proactive, and go the extra mile. That’s the best way to show you aren’t there to complete your assignments only and go home. Instead, you’ll demonstrate you care about your colleagues, company needs, and the impact you make.

About Dr. Ryan Giffen

With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Ryan Giffen is an expert in human relations and business culture. His career began in hospitality, leading operations and human resource departments for Fortune 500 companies and the like. Not long after, Ryan found his passion for teaching and consulting. He earned a Ph.D. in Hospitality Management with a Human Resources focus from Iowa State University and now works as an assistant professor at California State University, Long Beach. For over a decade, he continues to research and speak on organizational culture, relationship intelligence, and leadership effectiveness. Ryan is also the founder of Inospire, a company helping bosses and employees build stronger relationships with one another. Lastly, Dr. Giffen is producer and host of the Corporate Shadow Podcast, a show helping everyday employees build stronger relationships with their bosses and organizations.