Monday, April 11, 2016

How to Repair Bad Relationships at Work

Even the nicest, most even-tempered person has difficulties getting along with everyone at work. (If someone tells you they love everyone, they're either lying or taking some really nice meds.)

When workplace relationships go bad, it can be really difficult because you're still required to work with the person. Ignoring him or her can not only hurt your ability to do your job, but puts colleagues in an awkward position between the feuding parties. Also,the boss is going to get very unhappy if this starts to resemble a tiff from the junior high cafeteria.

In addition, having a bad professional relationship hurts you emotionally. You may think you're handling it, but carrying around those resentful feelings can only add to your workplace stress, eventually bleeding over into your private life.

That's why you need to take steps to resolve damaged professional relationships, whether it's with a colleague or a boss. Here are some steps to take:

1. Look in the mirror. Before you blame your co-worker for everything that goes wrong at work, think about the part you play. Did you egg her on by saying," Oh, let's not let Marsha be in charge of the final report. You know she'll get it done late -- she wouldn't even get to her own funeral on time! Ha-ha!" If you claim you were only kidding -- were you? Or were you taking this approach instead of privately talking to her about being late with a previous report, which caused you to have to work overtime? Consider how your own behavior could be improved before you heap blame on someone else.

2. Hold a private meeting.  When meeting with a boss or colleague, admit how you've done some soul-searching because you want to improve the relationship and even your performance. Be upfront with your grievances and state how you want the relationship to improve. Be specific about how your performance is affected by the actions of the other person, but never make the comment personal. "When I don't get the report until 5 p.m. instead of at 3 p.m., then I don't have time to do the necessary fact-checking because people are leaving work and don't want to respond to my emails or phone calls. This means the final report to the customer can be nearly 24 hours late, which makes them think our organization is unreliable."

3. Take action. Things may not be completely resolved when you leave the meeting and it may take a while for things to thaw. But as long as you focus on a shared goal, such as making the team more productive, you will begin to rebuild trust in the relationship. Try to go beyond a "hello" with this person and perhaps offer a "nice presentation" comment after a meeting. You don't have to be besties with this colleague or boss, but your actions will do much to ease the tension. It's especially important that you not gossip about the situation -- the colleague will more than likely find out and any progress will be lost.

Finally, you need to give up the idea that someone is "right" and someone is "wrong" in these situations. Focusing on that will prevent you from moving past the hostility and forming a more even-handed work relationship.

What strategies have you used to handle workplace conflicts?

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