Work relationships are often much more brittle than our other relationships. In the usual workplace, we find constant battles of egos, people jockeying for position, and others who are motivated only by a desire to advance their own careers, no matter the cost. Small slights that might be ignored in other settings can ruffle someone’s feathers at work.

Most often, petty slights are purely unintentional. In fact, when we are on the receiving end of someone else’s wrath and revenge, we are at a loss for the reasoning behind the downturn of our the relationship. At work, far too many individuals are on the ever-vigilant search for even the slightest sign that someone is either on their side or working against them. This is a very exhausting way to approach our lives five-and-a-half 5 days a week.

If things feel like they have gone awry, you will have to put in work to overhaul your workplace relationships in both a mature and a professional manner:

1. Try to identify to identify the specific issue.

  • Before you address your colleague, spend a little time attempting to identify the source of the problem. This, of course, can prove challenging.
  • The origin of the friction may be something very subtle and difficult to diagnose.
    • Your best clues probably come from the first time you noticed something is wrong.
    • The incident likely started at that moment, or before. But, now you are aware discord, and can actively choose to do something to make things different.
    • Ask a trusted co-worker for their insight. Someone else may understand the other person’s perspective on the disagreement better than you do.

2. Schedule a time to meet.

  • Set up a time to meet with the other party.
  • Avoid disclosing the specific reason before the meeting.
  • Do not wait too long to have your meeting. Giving the other person too much time to think and prepare does not work well.

3. Articulate your purpose.

  • Now that you are meeting face to face, tell them what you want.
  • You may want to state that you would like to work toward the best possible relationship in the future.
  • If you have some confusion surrounding the issue, state that as well.

4. Talk about the current state of the relationship.

  • Describe how you view the current state of affairs.
  • Avoid the impulse to blame or judge. Just call things as you see it.
    • Rehearse this part of the conversation prepared ahead of time, so you can be clear.
  • Speak to your own shortcomings in the relationship as well.

5. Then, stop talking.

  • Prepare to get to get blasted.
  • You have called the meeting and stated your perspective. You know that this other person is already annoyed with you.
  • Expect the response to be either tough or tearful; most often, the former.
  • Listen to what they have to say.

6. Commit to understanding.

  • Use your active listening and your emotional intelligence skills.
  • Restate what you have just been told to ensure that you understand clearly.
  • Ask more questions, if necessary.
  • Suppress the urge to retaliate. This will probably only make the situation worse.

7. Attempt to solve the issue together.

  • Now that you have both clearly stated your case and perspectives, agree on the type of relationship you would like to have moving forward.
  • Work to find a solution together that will get you to where you wish to go.
  • The relationship may still be very fragile, but it is on its way to a better foundation, and possibly, on the way to improvement. The possibility to ultimately have a better working relationship than ever now exists.
  • What if you address the issue and the other party claims that everything is just peachy?
    • Avoid disagreeing.
    • You have explained your position. Tell them that you must be mistaken or misinterpreted the course of events. Tell them that you look forward to continuing to work together.
    • Hopefully, this will resolve the challenge. If not, now you have at least set new ground rules and boundaries for your future interactions. This helps us better manage our own expectations and the expectations of others.

Workplace relationships can be especially touchy and/or delicate. We have to work hard to manage some of these ties. Many people seek affirmation and validation at work, so that even the slightest feeling of being snubbed, ignored, or insulted can be distorted and magnified. Addressing the issue directly can often help to assuage challenges quickly, as many disagreements at work are often misunderstandings.

Avoid allowing the situation to smolder. Give some serious consideration to what may have caused the rift and schedule a meeting. The sooner you address the issue, the sooner both of you can move on and mend your relationship, or, the sooner you can choose to simply to move on.

When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you

in every situation, you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval.

Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the

negative energy of fear and regret.

-Shannon L. Alder


Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar Flickr via Compfight cc