The Power of High-Quality Connections

Do you notice that some interactions leave you feeling irritable and tense long after the exchange? Maybe a driver aggressively cut you off, or a colleague became impatient for seemingly no reason.

Yet other interactions, such as a stranger holding a door open or a boss sending a text asking how a sick pet is doing, can make us feel reenergized and valued.

These types of exchanges often follow us the rest of the day and impact our attitude and motivation in both our personal and work lives.


Benefits of high-quality connections

Research conducted by Jane Dutton, professor of business administration at the University of Michigan, found that creating “high-quality connections” – short-term, positive interactions at work that foster beneficial outcomes for individual employees and the organizationresult in many benefits.

Positive impacts of high-quality connections:

  • Facilitates physical and psychological well-being
  • Enables individuals to more fully engage in job tasks
  • Strengthens employee attachment and commitment to their work organization
  • Enables individuals to recover from challenges and adapt to change
  • Creates psychological safety which encourages learning and risk-taking
  • Encourages cooperation, trust and risk-taking across the organization

Building high-quality connections is easy (and you’re probably already doing it)

Whether working in-person or virtually, there are plenty of opportunities to build high-quality connections. It can happen informally such as 2 minutes before a meeting starts, through casual conversations on Slack or Teams, or via text. High-quality connections can also develop more intentionally, such as team members rallying around each other in a crisis, or leaders demonstrating they are sincerely listening to concerns during a change or business disruption.

Here are 2 simple ways to continue developing high-quality connections:

  1. Ask the right questions. The jumping off point for building high-quality connections starts with asking purposeful questions that encourages someone to talk about themself. Questions set the tone and can open or shut down an interaction. According to Dutton, aim for questions that fall into one of these 4 categories:
    • Demonstrates sincere interest in the other person (What was your biggest takeaway from that experience?)
    • Elicits positive emotions for the other person (What was the best part of your week?)
    • Offers assistance (What are your biggest pain points right now?)
    • Uncovers something in common (What are you most looking forward to over the weekend?)
  2. Take advantage of interpersonal micro-moments. Brief encounters have enormous potential to generate positive emotional experiences and strengthen relationships. These moments can occur during everyday interactions such as greetings, conversations or acts of kindness. Simple, yet meaningful micro-moments include:
    • Put the cell phone away (not just face down) while talking to someone
    • Express congratulations when someone shares good news
    • Show compassion about a mutual challenge
    • Exchange stories about a fun holiday activity or significant relationship
    • Smile and give eye contact

Don’t let a packed to-do list or phone distractions get in the way of building high-quality connections. The benefits ripple far beyond the small gesture.


Marta Steele is a Partner at PeopleResults.