When people talk about building a resilient relationship, they’re usually talking about your relationship with your significant other. But we spend so much time at work that building resilient workplace relationships is also extremely important. Here are the top 10 tips for building resilient relationships at work:
#1 Keep your perspective
All relationships have their ups and downs. You’ve probably argued with your mom, your roommate, your best friend, and your significant other – and your relationship was probably at least as strong afterward as it was before. That’s because you both realized that the relationship was more important than the circumstances that caused the argument. At work, people sometimes lose sight of that. Because it’s work instead of “real life,” we put too much focus on the fact that a coworker’s failure to get her work done made us miss a deadline, or that the guy in the next cube took credit for an idea we came up with. We do that because, for the most part, we chose the job; we didn’t choose our coworkers. But it’s important to consider what the long-term consequences will be if we allow our anger or resentment to permanently damage the relationship. Before you do or say something that you can’t take back, stop and think about whether the potential cost is really worth it.
This is one of the biggies. How often have you set fuming over something one of your coworkers did without ever thinking of talking it out? “Professional” doesn’t mean “robotic and emotionless.” Being dishonest about your feelings is just as unhealthy for work relationships as it is for healthy relationships.
Listening is every bit as important as talking, and maybe even more so. But listening can be especially challenging in an office environment, because the person who is speaking may be more indirect than they would be in a personal relationship. “Listening” at work often means reading between the lines and listening to what people mean rather than just what they say.
#4 Get to know each other
One of the best ways to keep your perspective is to get to know each other on a more personal level. That doesn’t mean that you have to be BFFs or read each other’s diaries, but do get to know each other to the point where you have a glimpse of who your coworkers are in “real life.” Do you remember being a little kid and running into your teacher at the store? It was always kind of shocking and a little bit unnerving, as if your teacher wasn’t supposed to do things as ordinary as buying groceries. Realizing that your coworker is a spouse, a parent, a Little League coach, an alderman, a runner, etc., can help you see the whole person, so that you’re better able to bounce back from bumps in the road.
#5 Be aware of your coworkers’ needs
In all healthy relationships, both partners recognize that the other person has needs that are just as important as their own. Instead of being mad at your officemate for going after the promotion you want, stop and consider that she has her own career goals, her own financial responsibilities, her own dreams, etc. She’s not going after the promotion to hurt you; she’s going after the promotion because it’s what’s best for her. And she has just as much right to pursue her dreams as you do to pursue yours.
#6 Fight fair
Sometimes the strength of a relationship is more dependent on how you fight than on how often you fight. Disputes with coworkers are sometimes unavoidable, but it’s important to avoid calling names. It’s also important to avoid absolutes, like “always” or “never.” You don’t necessarily have to pull your punches, but stick to the facts. When it comes to emotions, it’s fine to talk about how you feel, but don’t ever make assumptions about what the other person thinks or feels.
#7 Unite on a common purpose
Sharing a common purpose can help you focus on the big picture rather than getting hung up on small slights. It’s easy if you’re working for a nonprofit with an inspiring mission, but you can do it even in the for-profit sector. Whether it’s rolling out a new product or blowing away all of your customer service goals, focusing on a bigger purpose can keep work relationships on track.
#8 Create shared memories
Remembering the good times can help you realize just how insignificant small disagreements really are. Whether it’s a corporate brainstorming retreat or a shared win, a “Do you remember when…?” can help smooth over a disagreement.
#9 Take a break
If emotions are running high, it might be a good idea to take a break and try to resolve the dispute later. When you’re very angry or hurt, you risk saying things that could permanently damage the relationship. Unless you’re willing (and able) to change jobs, you’re going to have to work with this person, so put a premium on preserving the relationship.
#10 Let it go
One way in which work relationships are different from personal relationships is the lack of emotional intensity. Your relationship with your significant other will suffer if you suppress your emotions for too long, because emotional intimacy is the very essence of the relationship. Work relationships are different. If there’s no good solution – your coworker can’t take back making you miss a deadline, for instance – sometimes it’s best to paste a smile on your face and move on.
Work relationships can be tough. You probably didn’t choose your coworkers, so you don’t have the same motivation to work things out as you do in your personal relationships. However, those relationships can be the key to your career success, so building resilient relationships at work is definitely worth the effort.
Image: When work is play..., by, Chris(tmas) K, via Flickr