Don’t Workplace Relationships Just “Stress You Out”?October 22, 2010
Sitting on any mode of public transport between 5 and 6.30 you can expect to over hear lots of conversation – football, holidays, who is picking the kids up from whose house etc. You don’t have to listen too carefully to log into another rich theme of post work banter – that swine in HR, the boss from hell, herover at accounts; then there’ll be “why doesn’t she get off her posterior (or equivalent)”, if he does that one more time…”. The level of bile reserved for work colleagues apparently knows no bounds. On one memorable occasion I listened to a fellow passenger’s full blown account of how she had caused the complete humiliating annihilation of a workmate for repeatedly coming back late from lunch. This account was so florid and boastful it sounded more like a scene from the Ok Corral than a well (or even badly) run office.
All sorts of research into workplace happiness cite work colleagues as a significant source of work satisfaction. But what happens if things go wrong? It’s not uncommon for employers to step in to sort out a drop in production but what support is available to gently warm a frosty atmosphere, to deflect daggered looks or sweeten poisoned relationships. The implications for our well-being and stress levels speak for themselves.
The fact is that we all have some responsibility for promoting good relationships in the office and a much improved, even happy atmosphere can be gained relatively quickly in the trickiest situations. I have been fortunate to be asked to help by running team building sessions in all sorts of situations and, whilst the problem seems complicated, the solutions are relatively simple although requiring persistence, goodwill and a willingness to accept that change is possible.
Maintain “social language”
In my experience it’s the first thing to go when times are tough and the first thing to come back when things improve. Keep up the “Hi!”, “hellos” and “have a good weekends”.
Watch your “communication filters”
Human beings are impressive communicators. To be so effective we have developed filters to enable us to categorise events. In the workplace that tends to mean that we expect, and therefore focus on, the behaviour we tend to notice – i.e. moaning, complaining, failure to help etc. When we turn our filter to notice the positive contribution that people make it can have pleasing effects.
Talk about what you want (rather than what you don’t want)
It is so much easier to understand when our colleagues talk about what they want, we can all join in! When they talk about what they don’t want we tend to spot the bits that relate to ourselves and that can make us feel uncomfortable, defensive etc.
Talk about the future
Avoid talking about a past that can’t be changed. Talking about the future can make what you want to achieve more real. Combine this with a discussion about what we all want in the future can create tangible excitement.
Develop a way of dealing with difficult issues
There are some invaluable “rules” which can be adopted by teams to help them to communicate with each other at difficult times. Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication Model helps those who use it to express what their needs, their feelings and ask for what they want in an effective way.
Build a culture of appreciation
Work colleagues who regularly take time out to talk about how they value each other are in a good position when conflict arises. They know that underneath all the disagreement they are appreciated – no matter what.