October 25, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed
“The best results come when you reduce emotion and increase communication.” ~ Unknown
How good are the relationships that you have with your colleagues?
I’ve seen it time and time again. The issues that impede organizational progress the most are the people relationship issues – not the subject matter or the content of the work itself.
That’s because in the world of work, it’s about relationships, relationships, relationships.
Relationship problems in the workplace have been found to be associated with absenteeism, decreased productivity and decreased engagement. Your people are your greatest asset. They can just as easily become your greatest liability.
It is people who must be empowered to act.
It is people who must collaborate and communicate.
It is people that must understand and embrace the mission.
Most importantly, it is the people who must develop productive working relationships to advance that mission.
Generally, there are two types of work-based relationships:
- Relationships between or among co-workers (peer-peer and team based)
- Relations between boss and subordinate
Ideally, these relationships should be positive and productive. So why do so many work related relationships fail?
- Lack of Trust
The cornerstone of all relationships, on or off the job, is trust. When trust is lacking, individuals and teams cannot succeed. Fairness, honesty, recognition, openness, transparency, and effective communication are the hallmarks of a trusting work environment. Trust or the lack of it has major motivating implications. Trust is a lubricant for loyalty. People want to perform their best for those they trust. That means creating a level of trust to foster mutual feedback. It also means creating an atmosphere where team members are no reticent about approaching on another to resolve conflict.
- Resolving Conflicts
Toxic colleagues and bosses. Different agendas or interests. Different values. Personality clashes. Lack of communication or poor communication that leads to misunderstandings is a reliable culprit for conflict. The sources of conflict in the work place are many. One of the most important skills people need to learn is how to resolve conflicts effectively. Conflict occurs when there is a lack of acceptance and understanding of self and others. Unless colleagues understand and accept their own and each other’s approach to work and problem-solving, their own strengths and limitations, conflict will occur. Avoiding conflict is often the default method for dealing with it. This does not, however, make it go away. Rather it pushes the conflict underground, only to have it resurface in a new form. By actively resolving conflict when it occurs, we can create a more positive work environment for everyone.
- Ego is the Enemy
In his excellent book Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday makes the point that while many successful people also have oversized egos (Muhammad Ali, Steve Jobs, and Donald Trump to name a few), their ego is also a constant source of disruption. In addition to the workplace and public controversies they suffer, there are private costs of ego that we never see. How much more successful would these people be if their egos didn’t cause them so many unnecessary problems. We must learn to detach ourselves personally from the events and activities of the work day. While challenging, we must strive to maintain perspective and not allow ourselves to get emotionally sucked in to our work or the personalities of those we work with. Even if we don’t like someone, we can find room to respect them for the work they do.
- Toxic Emotions
A common refrain for people who lose it at work is: “I am too passionate.” Passion is a red herring. What humans require in our ascent to success is purpose and realism. Purpose, is passion with boundaries. Realism is detachment and perspective. There is also a big difference between intention and impact – what people are trying to say and what we hear. Emotions and personal experiences, as well as tone and body language, can warp the intended meaning of what we say or hear people say. Try to listen and consider words and ideas thoroughly and dispassionately before forming your next thought. Negative emotions are like a virus – they can spread and suck the oxygen out of a room or a meeting. No one wants to be around a person who adds negativity to a group. When your emotions are triggered, intervene to interrupt the cycle. The longer you wait, the deeper you get sucked into the negative thinking and the more readily it spreads. Perfectly talented people are often left behind because of their inability to manage emotions at work.
How to Build Better Working Relationships
One technique I teach my coaching clients to develop stronger and more positive working relationships is relationship mapping. The best way to begin building authentic relationships is to map out your current relationships. Sit down with a piece of paper and plot out each person you have a relationship with at work. Do a quick assessment of those relationships by asking yourself some key questions:
- Do you know what motivates the person on your map?
- Do you know their priorities?
- Do you know their preferred work style?
- Do you know anything about them personally? Their challenges and struggles?
- If for some reason you dislike the person, could you develop empathy or compassion for them?
- Is your current relationship positive, neutral, or negative with that person?
- If it is negative then ask yourself, “What could happen if this relationship continues to be negative? Could it threaten me or my job?”
By creating and studying a relationship map, you can pin point potential relationship land mines. Then, you can find strategies to avoid potential disaster.
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Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.
©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.