Our workplace peers and supervisors are our most significant sources of inspiration and support. Healthy connections at work increase productivity and creativity and improve mental and physical well-being. However, after working with someone for a while, it’s possible to get stuck in a rut. Maybe the two of you have a history of animosity, or you just don’t get along. Many of us can attest that conflicts and disagreements are common in strained equations. Further adding to the stress factor at work. As work is a big part of our lives, it is important to develop and maintain good relationships that don’t cause us stress. In such stressful situations, what can you do to salvage your relationship? Is a fresh start possible?
Even the most strained relationships can be healed, which is positive news. In actuality, a bad relationship that becomes good may be incredibly powerful. However, repairing a strained relationship requires some serious effort. Brian Uzzi, professor of leadership and organisational change at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, says, “Most people just lower their expectations because it’s easier than dealing with the real issues at hand.” However, he asserts that the effort is frequently worthwhile, particularly in a setting where performance and productivity are on the line. Here’s how to repair a strained professional relationship:
Reflect on what is happening.
All relationships that need work are not alike. Susan David, the Harvard/McLean Institute of Coaching founder, says that there are two extremes to relationship problems. One end is where you are stuck in a rut. You don’t go beyond saying hello to each other every day. The other end of the spectrum is where you are always walking on eggshells around each other. Reflect and note what is going wrong in the relationship. This exercise will help you narrow down what you need to work on. During an active conflict, ask yourself the following questions:
- What caused the conflict?
- What’s the damage?
- What was your role during the conflict?
- What should your first steps be to remedy the situation?
Before you take steps to repair your relationship, it is important to be sure of what is going wrong and explore your recovery options.
It is natural to stew over what others have done. When we replay a situation, we tend to only recount others’ mistakes and the reasons they were wrong. But how often do you reflect on what you did? It is important to reflect on your actions and how they might have affected the relationship. What unhelpful things did you say or do that caused a disagreement at work? Once you accept responsibility for your behaviour, you may take measures to repair strained relationships if necessary.
Positively Address the Situation, not confront it
When you decide to take the first step, don’t go in with a polarised mindset. Acknowledge the tension. Take a neutral tone when addressing the problem. Along with this, express positive feelings about the relationship. This will act as a reminder of the significance of the partnership and foster a friendly environment where both parties may express their viewpoints.
Remember, you don’t have to be right all the time
Putting aside your ego and the need to be right is essential for bringing your strained relationship back on track. According to Susan David, “We often get stuck in our heads about who’s wrong and who’s right. And when you’re hooked on the idea that you’re right, you can’t start to repair the relationship because the issue of who’s at fault becomes a distraction”. This shift in perspective will help you move ahead in your relationship.
Consider the other party’s perspective
During strained and stressful situations, we tend to put on blinders. Ignoring any alternative perspective. It is important to evoke our empathetic side for a healthy relationship. Susan David advises you to allow yourself to feel things like sympathy and interest for your co-worker. Don’t make assumptions. Ask questions like, “How did he or she see things? How did he or she feel about the situation?” Something that seems indisputable to one individual may be very different from another person’s viewpoint.
Set preventive measures
Both parties must mutually set and agree on boundaries that will prevent similar situations from arising in the future. Work out communication and feedback systems. Stick to the boundaries and systems to ensure that your work relationship with your co-worker stays intact and friendly, especially after a rough patch.
Re-establish the trust equilibrium
Avoid making sensible reasons to persuade the other person that you are trustworthy. Instead, show it. Through the law of reciprocity, restore the previous give-and-take aspect of your previous relationship. However, don’t verbalise what is happening, and be sure to keep your word. Doing this consistently will ensure that your relationship will deepen over time.
Seek external help when needed
Lastly, if you can’t resolve the conflict on your own, seek external help. Involve HR or other people for advice and understanding. It would bring in an alternative perspective, and their support would also ease the resolution process.
At KelpHR we believe that having a safe, inclusive and happy workplace is the key to business transformation and growth and physical as well as mental health and wellness is the key to healthy and happy employees and workforces.
KelpHR was incorporated in 2013 to provide the best HR solutions to organizations, and to improve workplace culture across the board. Over the last 10 years, we have serviced more than 700 clients in India and a few overseas, across various industries in the areas of PoSH (prevention of sexual harassment at workplace), D, E & I (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) and EAP. But the common objective of all of these services is to build safer, happier, inclusive and productive workplaces.
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