Work relationships can be much more fragile than other types of relationships. The workplace can be a constant battle of egos, jockeying for position, and the desire to advance. Small slights that might be ignored in other settings can ruffle someone’s feathers at work.
These slights are often unintentional. In fact, it’s common to be at a loss for the reason behind the down-slide in the relationship. At work, many people remain on the lookout for any sign that someone is either on our side or against us.
Repair your workplace relationships in a mature and professional manner:
1. Attempt to identify the issue. Before addressing your coworker, spend some time attempting to identify the source of the problem. This can be challenging.
· The origin of the friction can be very subtle and difficult to identify. Your best clue can be the first time you noticed something was wrong. The incident likely started then or soon before. Ask a trusted coworker for their opinion. Odds are that someone else knows the other person’s perspective on the disagreement.
2. Schedule a meeting. Set up a time to meet with the other party. Avoid disclosing the specific reason. Also, be sure not to schedule the meeting too far in advance. Ideally, you could ask to meet in just a couple of hours. Giving the other person too much time to think and prepare isn’t best.
3. State your purpose. Now that you’re face to face, tell them what you want. You might state that you’d like to work toward the best possible relationship in the future. If you’re confused about the reason for the rift, state that, too.
4. Address the current state of the relationship. Describe how you see the current state of affairs. Avoid the urge to blame or judge. Just call it as you see it. It would be worthwhile to have this part of the conversation prepared ahead of time. Address your own shortcomings in the relationship as well.
5. Be quiet. Prepare to get an earful. You called the meeting and stated your perspective. You know that the other person is already annoyed with you. Expect the response to be harsh.
6. Seek to understand. Restate what you just heard to ensure that you understand clearly. Ask questions if necessary. You may have the urge to retaliate after what you just heard. Suppress that impulse. You can make a bad situation even worse.
7. Solve the issue together. Now that you both have your cards on the table, agree on the type of relationship you’d both like to have. Find a solution together that will get you there. The relationship might still be fragile, but it’s on the way to improvement. The possibility to ultimately have a better working relationship than ever now exists.
What if you address the issue and the other party claims that everything is fine? Avoid disagreeing. Tell them that you must be mistaken and look forward to everything returning to normal. Ask them to have lunch with you tomorrow. Hopefully, that will resolve the challenge.
Workplace relationships are especially sensitive and fragile. Many people seek validation at work, so any indication of being snubbed, ignored, or insulted is magnified. Addressing the issue directly will often alleviate the challenge quickly, as many disagreements at work are only misunderstandings.
Avoid allowing the situation to fester. Consider what caused the rift and schedule a meeting. The sooner you address the issue, the sooner both of you can move on and mend your relationship.