“Relationships surround us, confound us and sometimes lead to our defeat”, says Al Ritter in his book the 100/0 Principle. Think about the last time you had a disagreement with someone at work. It doesn’t matter if it was your boss, a colleague, a vendor or a customer; most likely, you felt angry and frustrated. Do you now avoid this person as much as possible?
It doesn’t matter what the issue is, we often act in ways that are counterproductive to improving the relationship. Once we begin to avoid communicating with someone, it can be easy to predict what will happen next. We make assumptions about the other person and replace facts with fiction. We begin to believe these stories and often act in ways that validate our assumptions. It can be self-satisfying to say, “See, I told you so!”
THE STORY OF A FRIEND
A friend told me a story about someone who worked the front desk at her employer. About 6 months after she was hired, people began to comment on her “unfriendly” behavior. Her answers were short and to the point, she didn’t smile, and kept her office door shut most of the time. My friend observed a few interactions between this person and other staff and customers that didn’t go well. A dark cloud descended in the office.
My friend decided to take some action. She approached the new person and said something along the lines of, “I want to talk to you because you are an important part of this team, and I get the impression things aren’t going very well.” The woman started to cry. She told my friend that shortly after she started, her best friend and younger sister were diagnosed with a fatal disease and she’d been spending as much time with her as she could, in addition to taking care of her own family and her job. She was exhausted. My friend listened and asked if she could tell other staff at the office so they would understand. The woman agreed. She told my friend that she had a hard time telling people because she just didn’t know what to say and it was easier to just give short answers, keep her door shut, and concentrate on her computer work. She wasn’t trying to be rude; she just didn’t know how to share the bad news.
My friend created a first step in creating understanding and repairing workplace relationships.
CHANGING THE RELATIONSHIP
Is there a relationship at work you’d like to change? A great way to begin the conversation is with “I want to talk to you because (you’re a valued colleague, we used to work well together, I’m concerned things aren’t going well – you choose your words). I am hoping we can begin again. Would that be OK with you?”
Remember – people won’t agree about the details of an event that occurred in the past. The only thing to do is put it behind you and move forward. The longer you wait, the more difficult it can be to start, but it does work. In fact, a conversation between you and the other person is the only thing that will begin to rebuild the relationship so you can effectively work together once again. Let us know if we can help. Scheduling a conversation with our staff BEFORE you have the conversation is highly recommended. Let us know how it goes by posting a response here.