A bad relationship can bring you down. Bad relationships at work disrupt the quality of your performance and can disempower you. It can lead to avoidance, misinterpretation and ultimately distrust within the organization. When the relationship is bad, nothing good can come from it. It can even lead to leaving the organization.
A not so good relationship does not have to stay this way. You cannot change the other but you can turn a prickly relationship into a fruitful one. That is what I discovered years ago whilst I was working as a national labor contract negotiator.
My colleage Jan
My colleague Jan, a bit elder cheerful guy comes in my office every end of the week. He is liked by many, knows a lot and likes to share. I consider our relationship equal, professional and can learn from him. After a few weeks into his new habit of dropping in, I notice that my neck and shoulders become rigid when I hear him approach, dreading the moment he comes in. I no longer hear what he is saying, I am in my head, thinking: “leave me alone”. A dramatic change in this relationship, actively avoided him even hiding in the girl’s room. It impacted my work in a negative way and it had to change but how?
Let me share what actually happens when he enters my room.
He walks in, greets cheerfully, sits down, makes himself comfortable, puts his feet up on the desk, fills the room with his presence. He takes out his tobacco package, starts rolling a cigarette and then lights it up and starts to speak.
The big NO
And here it was my discomfort, loud and clear. It was in the trespassing of my no, I was not ok with feet on the desk, spilling of tobacco and smoking in my office. I felt intimidated and even disgusted by all of this. Feeling pathetic and stupid for letting this behavior happen without even being aware that I was not ok with this. Beating myself up.
What was needed? It needed to be addressed in order to keep my focus on my work, stop the negative self-talk, restore my confidence and get the relationship back in balance. I had to speak up and tell Jan.
What definitely needed to stop? The smoking. Once that was clear it was not difficult to speak up. Using I-statements, I told him that I appreciated his time for me and sharing his knowledge and that I was not ok with him smoking in my office. Clear and simple.
The effect of my message was eminent, not only did he stop smoking in my office, he told me how much he appreciated that I spoke up truthfully. Our relationship became more open, honest and trusting. Enabling us both to create more impact at work.
The three steps
What did I do, I used three steps to bring back the balance in our relationship:
Reflect on myself, my values, principles, beliefs and boundaries,
Align my beliefs, values, principles and boundaries into clarity and a way forward
Speak up in such a way that my message is heard.
Do you recognize this story and would you like to build on creating positive relationships?
Over the years working with clients on rebalancing relationship issues I finetuned these three steppingstones with useful exercises and tips. Drop me an email if you would like to receive the three step stone approach for rebalancing your relationship.