How to Rescue A Deteriorating Working Relationship

The benefits of developing an effective working relationship with colleagues is well documented, but how much time are you investing in maintaining them?

A working relationship can easily deteriorate over time as a result of incidents and events that lead us to make assumptions and judgments, and jump to conclusions about our colleagues.

Rescue Your Working Relationship Before It Drives You Crazy!

However, by following a few simple steps we can often prevent these important relationships from deteriorating. In many cases, effectively working through issues can even strengthen working relationships and teams.

So, if you feel that one of your working relationships is going downhill, implement the following steps to promote a healthier professional working relationship.

Rescue Your Working Relationship in 5 Simple Steps

  1. Talk Through The Issues. Avoiding conflict usually exacerbates it. In most situations doing something is better than doing nothing. Many conflicts result from people choosing to do nothing, and avoiding or ignoring the issues. Talking through the issues is often the best remedy.
  2. Perspective-Take. Remember that we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions and we often judge others by their behaviour! Think beyond your colleague’s behaviours when assessing the situation. What are at least 3 possible intentions or goals your colleague may have had? In many cases behaviours are accidental, unintentional, or misunderstood. Often the other person intended to have a completely different outcome to what was assumed.
  3. Speak From the Heart. It is important to realise that people pay more attention when others speak freely from the heart about their feelings and needs. They also tend to shut down when others employ hidden strategies to get their needs met. Get clear on what is really important to you. How are you feeling? What do you really need in this situation? What would you like to see happen? Then let your colleague know in simple language. Don’t forget to ask them the same questions.
  4. Request Your Needs to Be Met. Recognise that people are actually more likely to agree to your requests than meet your demands (without some level of resistance). In fact, even in high conflict situations, most people are willing to meet others’ needs when framed as a question. Begin by asking your colleague, “would you be willing to…?”.
  5. Take Responsibility. Taking responsibility for your own actions, mistakes, or role in the deterioration of your working relationship is one of the most important steps to a successful outcome. In most cases if you show some level of vulnerability, it is likely that your colleague will do the same and openly discuss where they feel they have messed up.

In conclusion, effective communication is the key, as it gets to the heart of what is important to you – and your colleague.  So why not commit to spending a little more time planning conversations with language designed to inquire about the situation, share your own thoughts, feeling, intentions and goals. If you are willing to get to the heart of the matter, it is more likely your colleague will too.

This will help you maintain healthy working relationships, even in the toughest times.

Let us know how you go in the comments below.

If you feel your working relationship requires more than some simple steps and you require the help of a professional workplace mediator. Get in touch today!

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