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Building positive workplace relationships

Defining a good workplace relationship

There are many important characteristics that make up good, healthy working relationships. These include:

  • mutual respect
  • open communication
  • empathy
  • trust
  • interpersonal skills
  • building rapport with every member of the team.

In this fact sheet, we’re going to look at how to build healthy working relationships.

Mutual respect

According to Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), dignity and respect top employees’ workplace wish-list. Whilst we always feel more comfortable in the presence of like-minded people, the realities of the workplace mean that we will often come into contact with people from a far more diverse range of backgrounds than we would in our private life.

The simplest, most effective way of showing respect is to actively encourage the input and suggestions of colleagues. All members of a pharmacy team are important and all of their views are equally valid. It is important to listen to the views of others and to be prepared to examine viewpoints that may differ from your own.

Here are some suggestions for demonstrating respect:

  • treat others in a respectful and empathetic way
  • treat all people equally no matter their race, religion, gender, age or sexual orientation
  • never insult people
  • be aware of your body language, tone and demeanour
  • do not constantly criticise colleagues over the little things, or belittle, demean or patronise
  • remember that a series of seemingly trivial actions, added up over time, can constitute bullying.

Open communication

Open communication allows people to express ideas freely without fear of criticism. Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism, listen and learn from it to become a better pharmacist and work colleague. Developing good communication skills is particularly advantageous as it also helps pharmacists to deal more effectively with patients.


Empathy is an awareness of the feelings and emotions of others. For some people, the ability to empathise is intuitive, however others may need to work on their ability to empathise.

It’s a vital skill that all pharmacists should try to develop, not just when dealing with members of their pharmacy team, but also with patients. Compassion, selflessness and being non-judgemental are key factors to developing empathy.


All good relationships are built on trust. Trust is built up by keeping up with work commitments, doing all work to the highest standard and resisting the temptation to gossip. People who can demonstrate that they can get the job done will gain trust from both patients and colleagues.

Interpersonal skills

Having interpersonal skills is the ability to get along with others while getting the job done. Time spent developing these skills will serve pharmacists well throughout their working life. These include:

  • verbal and non-verbal communication
  • listening skills
  • negotiation
  • problem-solving and decision-making
  • assertiveness.

Verbal and non-verbal communication

Communication is more than just an exchange of information. Clarity of speech, remaining calm and focused, being polite and following some basic rules of etiquette will all aid the process of communication. However, it is not just what you say, but also how you say it. People will also take into account factors such as eye contact, body posture and body movement. Be prepared to adjust your verbal and non-verbal communication to fit the situation.

Listening skills

Poor listening skills mean that messages can be misunderstood or misinterpreted and this can prove frustrating. Our ability to listen effectively depends on the degree to which we perceive and understand both verbal and non-verbal messages. A good listener will not only listen to what is being said, but also note what is left unsaid or only partially said.


Effective negotiation helps to resolve situations where what one person wants may conflict with what another colleague wants. Ideally, it is best to find a solution that is acceptable to all parties. Identifying common goals and being willing to compromise will normally result in an effective solution.

Problem-solving and decision-making

No job comes without problems. Ignoring problems in the hope that they might go away is not a solution. The best way to deal with problems is to view them as challenges and then consider how best to overcome them. Where challenges have a number of possible solutions, good decision making skills are required. Where possible, listen to the opinion of others before making a decision and reflect on the impact any decision will have on others, for example, patients and work colleagues.


Not everybody is naturally assertive, and often people are not confident enough to assert themselves in the workplace. Being assertive means expressing yourself effectively and standing up for your, or another’s point of view, without being aggressive or inconsiderate to others. As a responsible pharmacist it is important to become accustomed to taking the lead and have the confidence to instruct team members about good working practices.

Need further support and information?

This factsheet was developed in partnership with ACTNow Sponsor Day Lewis Pharmacy.