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Strong Connections: How to Build Workplace Relationships that Improve Your Wellbeing

Approximate reading time:  minutes.
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Did you know that the average person in the U.K. spends more than 83,000 hours or 9.5 years of their life at work. That figure can be even higher for teachers, who often devote personal time to preparing for classes. Negative collegial relationships are tied to an array of wellbeing problems including loneliness, burnout, and anxiety. 

The connection between workplace relationships and wellbeing

Poor workplace relationships are a primary factor that impacts the stress levels of education staff. A recent NASUWT survey asked education staff to rate the impact of workplace environment on their physical health on a scale of 1 to 5. Teachers in all positions rated its importance at 3.3, or very important.

According to the 2022 Teacher Wellness Index, educators who reported feeling stressed often pointed to interpersonal relationship problems as a major influencing factor for their mental wellbeing. 

  • 92% of education staff felt that they weren't trusted by their line manager.
  • 88% felt that they worked in a negative team culture. 
  • 86% reported that they didn't feel well supported by their organisation. 

Trust, positivity, and continuous support are essential building blocks of strong collegial and personal relationships. When these are lacking, education staff mental health and teacher wellbeing suffer. Educators might feel isolated or notice burnout symptoms like worsening anxiety.  

How to build a strong foundation for workplace relationships 

Putting poor work relationships in functioning order might seem challenging, but know that you can improve them with effort. All types of relationships — with colleagues, significant others, classmates, friends, and family — share common building blocks. When your relationships are strong, you're likely to feel more satisfied. To build strong relationships at work, keep these cornerstones in mind. 


The ability to speak clearly, listen actively, and respond intentionally to what others say is essential to strong relationships of any kind. In the workplace, knowing how to communicate well can help you avoid and resolve conflict. Communicating is a tool to share your expectations, feelings, and needs with your collegial community. 

Education staff have been specially trained to share information with pupils clearly. Many teachers excel at sharing their thoughts clearly, but they may not always use active listening practices. This listening skills assessment will help you measure how well you listen to others. 


Trust is an important aspect of any relationship. There are many factors that contribute to trust in work relationships, with some of the most essential including

  • Following through on what you say. 
  • Asking for your colleagues' insight on teaching issues.
  • Avoiding gossip. 
  • Taking responsibility for your actions.
  • Being transparent about your plans and motivations. 

Check out this course on developing trust if this is an area where you struggle continually. 


Reliability is closely tied to trust. People who are reliable do what they say. They show up when they say they will. They're even-tempered, and their colleagues know that they won't overreact to minor problems or setbacks. When you work with someone reliable, you know what to anticipate from them. 

Reliability doesn't mean showing up at work when you're ill or putting off your work to help others. It simply means that your colleagues know you are on their side, and that you're always willing to help them when possible.  


Education staff work extremely hard to ensure the success of their pupils. Teachers very much understand the importance of accountability in the workplace. They know that their actions make a difference in the lives of children. 

The same is true of the impact individual teachers can have on overall education staff wellbeing. Educators and leaders who take accountability seriously are considered more trustworthy. They're perceived to be more concerned about the wellbeing of others and less self-centred than those who don't accept accountability. 


The Cambridge English Dictionary defines graciousness as "politeness and good manners." Gracious people are considerate, understanding, and mindful of how they speak to others. Remembering that your colleagues are human and taking a gentle path during conflict are ways to embrace graciousness.  

Practical tips for teachers who want to improve workplace relationships 

Improving your relationships with colleagues takes intention and effort. Remember that building relationships is a continual process. Forging a new workplace relationship, or repairing one that has been damaged, takes time, and it's important to try and cultivate a positive mindset about your work relationships.  

Learning how to have difficult conversations is key to building strong relationships in any setting. There are also many practical ways to build stronger relationships. A few are outlined below. Of course, if workplace relationships are causing you unmanageable anxiety or depression, it's important to reach out for support. We've put together a set of helpful resources to assist you.

Set personal boundaries 

Boundaries are critical to teacher wellbeing in various ways. They're helpful for managing anxiety and stress. They're absolutely necessary for successful relationships with pupils. Boundaries are also necessary for good collegial relationships. 

Avoid sharing too much about your personal life, and don't pry into the personal lives of others. That doesn't mean you can't share exciting news about your family or the occasional gripe about your kids' messiness!

Offer your assistance first

People often wait to help until they're asked. Offering assistance proactively is a great help when building or repairing a relationship. If you see that a colleague is struggling and needs help, volunteer immediately. It's a subtle way to let fellow educators know that you're paying attention to them and care about their success.  

Stay away from gossip

No one likes to be criticised, made fun of, or belittled behind their back. Gossiping about other people is one of the surest ways to ruin your relationships. Resist the temptation. We know it can be harder said than done, but this really is one of the simplest ways to build healthy relationships. 

When you gossip about someone, it doesn't just upset that person. It also signals to your colleagues that you aren't trustworthy and might speak poorly of them too. This makes it near impossible to build cooperative relationships with other education staff. 

Avoid arguments

You won't always agree with your colleagues. That's okay. What's not okay is resorting to an argument when you disagree. Arguments often involve yelling, cruel language, and hurt feelings. They can do serious harm to your relationships.  

Why? Arguments tend to escalate. They become about losing and winning rather than finding common ground. When you argue, you stop listening actively and start responding emotionally instead. 

Discussions are much different. Discussions tend to be calm and measured. You share your viewpoint, and your colleague shares theirs. Try to understand how they reached their opinion even if you know you couldn't agree with it. You don't need to share the same opinions as your colleagues, but you do need to treat them respectfully if you want to build strong relationships.  

Find common interests

Part of setting strong relationship boundaries is not divulging too much about your personal life at work. Feel free to relax this rule when it comes to your hobbies and interests. Perhaps you enjoy gourmet cooking or volunteering with a charity organisation. Find colleagues who share your interests and open a conversation. 

Having something in common can be a great starting point for a relationship. It provides a direction for conversation. It also helps your colleagues see and appreciate you as an individual.   

Be willing to compromise

Education staff at all levels know that it isn't always possible to get their own way, but it can still be hard to compromise. There are no quick wins here. Willingness to compromise is largely about mindset. 

Of course, there are times when you shouldn't compromise. It's important never to give ground on professional ethics and pupil safety in particular. In most other disagreements, though, compromise is both possible and healthy. 

Support for Building Strong Relationships

Building solid relationships with your colleagues at school can feel challenging. Know that you aren't alone in your desire to better manage your relationships. It's the perfect time to sign up for your free Welbee Wellbeing Toolkit. It's full of resources to help you manage your wellbeing and develop personally as an educator.   

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