article

The Importance
of Peer
Relationships

Revel Gordon

Positive peer relationships are one of the most important – yet often overlooked – elements of career success. This article provides tips on how to build positive, authentic relationships with others at your level in an organisation, so your peer relationships become an asset, not a liability.

There are many reasons to develop good peer relationships. First, they help you get things done in your role. They also make it easier for you to be promoted, and protect you from bullies and ‘back-stabbers’. They build a valuable personal network, and finally, they make coming to work each day more enjoyable.

Peers help you get things done

Good relationships with others at your level in the organisation helps you to be more productive in your role. Need that marketing plan turned around in a hurry? It helps if you’ve already built a solid relationship with the CMO. Want your IT systems up and running at a new site asap? Best to already have the CIO on your side. Note the use of word ‘already’. Relationships are best developed when you don’t have an agenda. That way, it’s clear to the other person that you’re getting to know them because you actually want to, not just because you need something from them at that moment.

However there are several other important – if less obvious – reasons to develop lateral relationships in your organisation.

Would your peers be OK reporting to you?

When decisions are made around promotion, one of the key factors considered is whether a candidate’s co-workers would accept her or him in the new, more senior role. If your colleagues don’t like or respect you, it’s hard for the organisation to promote you. First there’s the obvious question around why you can’t build effective working relationships with peers; and second, there would be a concern around whether the team would accept you in this role, including whether some of your most talented colleagues might leave if you were made their leader.

Good peer relationships protect against bullies and ‘back-stabbers’

If your colleagues think well of you, it makes it very difficult for anyone else to portray you in a negative light. Bullies and back-stabbers can’t gain traction if the crowd is against them, and tend to move on to other targets. This is a particularly important consideration for women, who are sometimes tagged with negative stereotypes that are almost never applied to men. While grossly unfair, this phenomenon is still a reality in many organisations, and building positive peer relationships is one of the most effective ways that female leaders can prevent this happening to themselves.

By the way, if a bully or back-stabber exists in your team, it’s your responsibility as a leader to do something about it.

Build your network

Your peers, especially the talented ones, are valuable assets in your personal network. They will move on to new roles and organisations, and having healthy, authentic relationships with these people can lead to all sorts of interesting and mutually beneficial opportunities in the future.

Enjoy work more

Finally, having positive relationships with your peers makes coming to work more enjoyable. You spend 40, 50, 60 hours per week or more with them, so why not make that time as fun and productive as possible?

A way to improve peer relationships

Even if networking doesn’t come naturally to you, consider picking out one or two people at your level in the organisation that you think you’d get along with and invite them for a coffee. The focus of the conversations should not be work. Instead, just get to know them – and have them get to know you. Do they have a partner and kids, what are their interests outside work, and so on. This starts to build the genuine connection and trust that are the cornerstone of positive relationships. You’ll likely be surprised at how easy this is. Most people welcome the opportunity to get to know their co-workers better, and are flattered to be asked. The smart ones will also realise that its in their interests to get to know you.

A final word. I’ve used the term “managing relationships” here. This can sound contrived or Machiavellian, but it is not. The reality of the corporate workplace is that success – particularly at more senior levels – is heavily based on the relationships you develop. Building healthy, positive relationships with your peers is one of the most important factors in developing your career, while delivering positive outcomes for your organisation.

Positive peer relationships are one of the most important – yet often overlooked – elements of career success. This article provides tips on how to build positive, authentic relationships with others at your level in an organisation, so your peer relationships become an asset, not a liability.

There are many reasons to develop good peer relationships. First, they help you get things done in your role. They also make it easier for you to be promoted, and protect you from bullies and ‘back-stabbers’. They build a valuable personal network, and finally, they make coming to work each day more enjoyable.

Peers help you get things done

Good relationships with others at your level in the organisation helps you to be more productive in your role. Need that marketing plan turned around in a hurry? It helps if you’ve already built a solid relationship with the CMO. Want your IT systems up and running at a new site asap? Best to already have the CIO on your side. Note the use of word ‘already’. Relationships are best developed when you don’t have an agenda. That way, it’s clear to the other person that you’re getting to know them because you actually want to, not just because you need something from them at that moment.

However there are several other important – if less obvious – reasons to develop lateral relationships in your organisation.

Would your peers be OK reporting to you?

When decisions are made around promotion, one of the key factors considered is whether a candidate’s co-workers would accept her or him in the new, more senior role. If your colleagues don’t like or respect you, it’s hard for the organisation to promote you. First there’s the obvious question around why you can’t build effective working relationships with peers; and second, there would be a concern around whether the team would accept you in this role, including whether some of your most talented colleagues might leave if you were made their leader.

Good peer relationships protect against bullies and ‘back-stabbers’

If your colleagues think well of you, it makes it very difficult for anyone else to portray you in a negative light. Bullies and back-stabbers can’t gain traction if the crowd is against them, and tend to move on to other targets. This is a particularly important consideration for women, who are sometimes tagged with negative stereotypes that are almost never applied to men. While grossly unfair, this phenomenon is still a reality in many organisations, and building positive peer relationships is one of the most effective ways that female leaders can prevent this happening to themselves.

By the way, if a bully or back-stabber exists in your team, it’s your responsibility as a leader to do something about it.

Build your network

Your peers, especially the talented ones, are valuable assets in your personal network. They will move on to new roles and organisations, and having healthy, authentic relationships with these people can lead to all sorts of interesting and mutually beneficial opportunities in the future.

Enjoy work more

Finally, having positive relationships with your peers makes coming to work more enjoyable. You spend 40, 50, 60 hours per week or more with them, so why not make that time as fun and productive as possible?

A way to improve peer relationships

Even if networking doesn’t come naturally to you, consider picking out one or two people at your level in the organisation that you think you’d get along with and invite them for a coffee. The focus of the conversations should not be work. Instead, just get to know them – and have them get to know you. Do they have a partner and kids, what are their interests outside work, and so on. This starts to build the genuine connection and trust that are the cornerstone of positive relationships. You’ll likely be surprised at how easy this is. Most people welcome the opportunity to get to know their co-workers better, and are flattered to be asked. The smart ones will also realise that its in their interests to get to know you.

A final word. I’ve used the term “managing relationships” here. This can sound contrived or Machiavellian, but it is not. The reality of the corporate workplace is that success – particularly at more senior levels – is heavily based on the relationships you develop. Building healthy, positive relationships with your peers is one of the most important factors in developing your career, while delivering positive outcomes for your organisation.