How to Build Meaningful Relationships at Work

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Principles: Life and Work" by Ray Dalio. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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How do you build meaningful relationships at work? Can meaningful relationships help a company succeed?

Building meaningful relationships at work helps a company succeed by creating a positive work culture, and fostering collaboration.

Keep reading to find out more about building meaningful relationships at work.

Cultivate Meaningful Relationships

Treating people like partners or extended family will make relationships more special than quid pro quo employment agreements. People struggle well together on a common mission, and they help each other evolve.

Expect your team to think like owners, and to behave accordingly.

  • This helps people uphold their responsibilities, such as making sure things are taken care of when they’re on vacation, and spending company money like it’s their own.

Great meaningful relationships are built on common values and interests, having similar approaches to pursuing them, being reasonable and considerate with each other, and holding each other to high standards.

  • Dalio considers Bridgewater “a family business in which family members have to perform excellently or be cut.”
  • It’s important to have shared values and mission. People who aren’t aligned on the mission will work for different, conflicting goals, such as whatever makes more money for themselves at the expense of values.

People who buy into the community provide it with a long-term skeletal strength. The stronger the community is, the more it protects against bad actors.

People in a community should be more considerate to others than what they demand for themselves. For example, if you are offended by how someone behaves, it is inconsiderate to ask them to stop exercising their rights for your sake.

Don’t be naive about how people behave. Most people will pretend to operate in your interest while operating in their own. Treasure honorable people who will treat you well even when you’re not looking.

Other tactics to build meaningful relationships:

  • Fund ways for people to build relationships with each other. Pay for half of activities people want to do together, and pay for food and drink at hosted dinners.
  • Accept that some people will not buy into the culture. They can still contribute a lot and be considerate.

Compensation

Despite all the positives of culture, people need to get paid for their work, so how should you pay them? Dalio gives some advice:

  • Strive to be on the far side of fair. Each party should aim to say “you deserve more” to each other.
  • Make sure people’s incentives align with their responsibilities, so they experience the consequences of the outcomes.
  • People doing above-normal work should be paid accordingly; likewise for people doing below-average work.
  • Being generous does not necessitate total fairness or entitlement. In general, people should be happy with what they get, and not point to what other people get as justification for getting the same thing.
    • For example, many people commuted from New York City to Bridgewater’s Connecticut headquarters, so Bridgewater funded a shuttle for people who live in New York City. One employee suggested that it’d be fair to compensate drivers for the hundreds of dollars they spend on gas, since bus riders were getting free transit. Dalio felt no obligation to be equal in generosity.

Building meaningful relationships can help foster growth and creativity at companies as well as creating a great work culture.

How to Build Meaningful Relationships at Work

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Here's what you'll find in our full Principles: Life and Work summary:

  • How Ray Dalio lost it all on bad bets, then rebounded to build the world's largest hedge fund
  • The 5-step process to getting anything you want out of life
  • Why getting the best results means being relentlessly honest with everyone you work with

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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