Field Notes: Tips for building meaningful relationships at work

March 4, 2019
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Two people dressed in business formal clothing review something on a tablet together "Field Notes" is a regular AACRAO Connect column covering practical and philosophical issues facing admissions and registrar professionals. The columns are authored by various AACRAO members. If you have an idea for a column and would like to contribute, please send an email to the editor at

by Laura Remillard, Associate Director of Graduate Admissions, Stanford University

We all know that networking is important for one’s career, but studies show that building authentic relationships is even more important. Employees with good relationships are more engaged at work, feel more satisfied, and are less likely to leave. 

Identify meaningful relationships
What are the key components of a good relationship? Some qualities that should be included are honest and open communication, mutual respect, and shared goals and values.

When there is trust in a relationship, it allows you freedom to express yourself honestly and openly. It forms the foundation of a strong relationship. Without open communication, the relationship will either be one-sided or it will disintegrate. Also, honest communication about what you know and what you do not know helps establish credibility.

Having respect is essential so both parties' feelings are valued. People need to be able to express views and opinions without fear of being “shot down."

Sharing goals and values forms the basis of collaborative, purposeful relationships that can grow over time. Shared values also help support decision-making processes. 

Tips for forming relationships
The next step is to build on the relationship. Stanford University’s Women in Technology (WIT) hosted a recent workshop on this subject, and noted key tips on forming lasting relationships. 

1. Invest in social and personal time. Set a goal of having coffee with two different people each month.
2. Offer genuine compliments. If you can keep track of details, such as common interests and opinions, that will make the other person feel valued. When you are conversing with someone else, make sure to “brag” about the accomplishments of others.
3. Get out of your comfort zone. Try to initiate a conversation each week with someone in a different department, or even outside of work.
4. Be an active listener. Put away your cell phone. Someone told me they were on a job interview and the person interviewing her was texting on her cell phone the entire time. It made the interviewee feel undervalued, and it seemed the interviewer had better places to be. 

WIT also coined the “4 I’s”: Initiate, Inquire, Invest, and Influence. Initiate: Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. This means to seek opportunities to meet new people. Inquire: Ask questions, and focus your whole attention for the entire conversation. Invest: Do things together. This will strengthen the bond of trust.
Influence: Lean on and support each other.

Obviously, it takes work to achieve strong and satisfying relationships. Start today to make a difference in your career and in someone else’s. 


Stanford University’s Women in Technology (WIT); MOR Associates


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