Not everyone we work with will be our best friends, and some may prove challenging to get along with; still, we often must rely on our co-workers for our own efforts to succeed. If a relationship at work proves troublesome, our natural inclination is avoidance. But this can be self-defeating.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Dorie Clark, strategy consultant and Adjunct Professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, advises acknowledging your own role in the tension, mentally pressing a “reset” button, and changing the relationship dynamic by avoiding past patterns.
We completely agree. We have long said that while we cannot change another other person, we can always change the way we react to that person. The first step is taking accountability for your part in the tension. Be observant as to how your reactions could be making a tense situation worse. Understand yourself and you will gain insight into the dynamic. Change your behavior and change the dynamic. You may not gain a BFF, but you can gain respect and cooperation
Please share your experience: What has worked for you in repairing damaged relationships at work? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
7/9/2014 04:21:00 am
It is absolutely correct that the only way to change a relationship is to change one's own contribution to the relationship. The only problem with this is that it often requires an effort that unless one is totally committed to cannot be given without the help of others.
7/9/2014 04:43:06 am
Thanks for this nuanced thinking about the topic, Dick. Resonating with your idea that if we can suppress the immediate fight/flight response for 30+ seconds, we can move from antagonist to investigator. In addition to the mantras you describe above, do you have any other thoughts about how to make that transition?
7/9/2014 06:04:26 am
This is such a difficult thing to talk about, much less to do effectively.
7/9/2014 07:09:59 am
Agreed, Merry: These dynamics become more complicated in family business -- and are still achievable. Like you, we have found few people who simply don't want to make a situation work -- no matter what. Guess it's about how much patience and perseverance we have!
7/9/2014 07:58:34 am
LOL So true! Those people you just pray for and thank God you don't go home to them at night!
7/22/2014 08:09:50 am
The previous comments and my original remarks have caused me to think some more.
7/22/2014 08:34:46 am
Really happy that this discussion has caused you to think more, Dick. Same here! What a great question you have created: "Is there anything that I can say or do that will let you consider my point of view without raising the level of antagonism?" Thank you for this.
7/23/2014 02:28:24 am
Wow Dick, well said!!! I too like that idea, and love your suggested sentence. It will be used! When said in a completely neutral tone, that could really work. In most cases, sadly, it will be a situation where they don't really want to compromise or discuss, but rather impose their will or opinions on others. The personalities I work with range the gamut of possibilities. At times it is like a cartoon in progress, with the characters all determined to create as much chaos they can. lol I do not have the patience to deal with a lot of that, and try to work around it and not engage them as much as possible. Your point about the international conflicts and wars was well made too. Some people, like some countries or organizations, simply thrive on conflict and keeping it perpetuated. They are always the "wronged" party in any given situation, and they thrive on it. That type of person I find the hardest to deal with. Unless they get their way about everything, then the fight is on. To me that is a huge waste of energy that could, and should, be spent in a better way - solving real problems. I appreciate your comments, and this has been very helpful. Confronting and then walking away when it is obvious there is no positive resolution possible is a very good piece of advice. We cannot change anyone else, but we can change how we react to them. Walking away is definitely a reaction that makes a statement of it's own very nicely. I have to laugh, as this brings to mind a favorite T-Shirt saying of mine - "I don't engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed person". My thoughts exactly.
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