Working relationships - how to keep them healthy

Working relationships – how to keep them healthy

Working relationships are very important. If you’re in full-time work then you’re likely to spend two to three times more time with people at work than you do with your partner. So why don’t people invest the same effort into working relationships?

“I don’t come to work to make friends.” How many of us have heard that said by a colleague, and normally one who isn’t overburdened with Emotional Intelligence. Whilst they may see coming to work as requiring only that they do their job, they are missing out on a lot by not building friendships at work.

People with good working relationships with others are listened to, and their ideas taken more seriously, than people without. They are also more likely to have the opportunities to do work that they enjoy, and to get feedback and support from managers.

In fact, two thirds of people consider relationships at work to be the most important factor in enjoying and succeeding at work – so much so that they wouldn’t take better paid job if it involved conflict with co-workers.

So what are the ‘rules’ for good working relationships? Here are three for a start – and very similar to those for relationships outside of work.

1 – Establish topics that are off-limits. Politics and religion are normally included in this, although for you and your co-worker(s) it might be different. There may be others too that are a ‘hot-button’ issues for you or others – perhaps climate change, or Michael McIntyre’s material.

2 – There are some topics, that although contentious or charged, will have to be talked about – performance perhaps, or certain incidents. In this case you need to agree when you are going to talk about these. One of the points you will need to reach agreement on is the amount of notice you have about the discussion. There’s a sweet spot for people between not feeling they’ve had enough time, and that the conversation is hanging over them.

3 – When you are discussing something contentious you want to make sure that the conversation doesn’t get derailed, and your working relationship along with it. You can achieve that in four easy steps

  • Discuss one issue at a time
  • Don’t interrupt the other person, and listen
  • Summarise in your own words what they have just said
  • When you both agree you have understood then you respond

This might seem mechanical at first, and perhaps even patronizing or simplistic.  Stick with it though and you’ll see misunderstandings and assumptions start to disappear – and considering you could be spending three times as long with them as you are with your life partner, then that has to be worth working on.

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