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Creating Healthy Professional Relationships

Brenda Harrington |
May 07, 2024

It is always nice to see familiar names and faces featured in media and publications. So when I saw two of my favs, Gena Cox and Ryan C. Warner, PhD, featured in a recent article published by ESSENCE on how to bond with your coworkers, I was over the moon! Congratulations, Gena and Ryan, and thank you for your advice on what can be an issue for so many.

The subject of connecting with coworkers, and relationship building at work comes up often in discussions about professional development. From people who are guarded and prefer complete separation between their business and personal lives, to others who might be labeled an open book, many people struggle with what I refer to as the social component of professional life. Sure – we go to work to do the work, but making an effort to develop healthy relationships with colleagues is essential to being successful, especially for managers and leaders. Like it or not, we all need to experience a human connection with others to feel some degree of safety, and especially to build trust. But it can be difficult to know where to draw the line when it comes to sharing details about your personal life with colleagues.


Regardless of where you are on the continuum between being personally private and oversharing, I offer this metaphor for consideration. Imagine welcoming a stranger into your two-story house through the front door. From the foyer, perhaps they can see rooms on the first floor, for example, like the living room, dining room and parts of the kitchen. They can also see a staircase which leads to the second floor. But across the staircase is a velvet rope, creating a boundary that places anything beyond that rope off limits to anyone not granted access, or who has not been invited to proceed up the stairs.


With the image of that house in mind, consider a few simple facts about yourself that you wouldn’t mind others knowing about you. Are you a sports enthusiast? Do you like to cook? What are a few things that could be positioned in, or visible from that foyer to help others get to know you?  By the same token, what are the things that need to remain on the other side of that rope, and on the second floor?  It is important to find the right balance, and if you are a person who leans toward privacy, avoid not opening the door at all and shutting others out.


Think about where you are along the continuum, and whether it could benefit you to move in one direction or the other. By all means, please be sure to read the full article in ESSENCE for advice from the experts:

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