How To Improve Tense Work Relationships

Are you experiencing friction with someone on your team? Perhaps someone has stopped being friendly with you or maybe a colleague has started criticizing you. Whether a co-worker is giving you a cold shoulder, or a team member is suddenly making life difficult, it helps to know how to correct the stressful work relationship.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share guidance from Ben Brearley, founder of Thoughtful Leader, on how to build positive working relationships with difficult colleagues.

Engage—don’t avoid. It’s natural to want to limit interactions with a difficult colleague, but Brearley points out that this will only exacerbate the problem. When you stop communicating, you make it easy for any rift or disagreement to grow stronger. Instead, try to rebuild the strained relationship through small, consistent actions. The more regularly you engage with the difficult colleague, the better your chances of improving the relationship, says Brearley.

Collaborate to break down barriers. Sometimes, a rift can arise when others view you as a lone wolf out to get all the credit for yourself. You can break that perception by including others rather than going it alone, says Brearley. Even though you may not want to work with a difficult colleague, you can often change their perception of you by enlisting their help or teaming up with them.

Seek counsel. When you want to be viewed as someone who is self-sufficient, you may end up making others feel threatened by you. According to Brearley, a powerful way to break this perception is to ask for advice from the very people with whom you have a challenging work relationship. By asking a difficult colleague for advice, you help make the other person feel valued and needed. Instead of feeling threatened by you, they may now feel more self-assured in their own abilities.

Establish boundaries. Whether you consistently cross boundaries or someone on your team does the line-crossing, positive work relationships can be tarnished simply because people don’t understand boundaries. Brearley says it’s important to set firm boundaries for yourself and respect the boundaries of others.

Help others. When you’re an ambitious professional, you may unknowingly be alienating those around you. Some may perceive you as dominant or forceful, notes Brearley. One way to temper this perception? Focusing some of your time on helping your colleagues. Be sure you lend a hand just because you want to, not because you expect anything in return.

Tackle the issue head on. If you have tried some of the above ideas to mend a strained work relationship, it may be time to have a direct conversation. While these conversations are never fun, they allow you to discuss the issue candidly without continuing to dance around the subject. Brearley suggests saying something like, “I’ve noticed you seem to be avoiding my calls. Is there an issue that we need to talk about?” or “I’ve noticed that we aren’t getting along as well as we used to. Can we talk about why this is, because we used to work really well together.”

Tense work relationships can sometimes arise. Instead of letting the discord continue, think about how you can work to reduce tension. This could mean proactively reaching out or starting an honest dialogue about how to bring harmony back to the relationship. Whatever may have caused the tension, it pays to do all you can to turn negative relationships into productive and enjoyable ones.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Ben Brearley is the founder of Thoughtful Leader and is an experienced leader, AIPC and PRINT® certified coach and MBA passionate about developing thoughtful and effective leaders.

filed under March 2021
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