We all have to work to earn a living, unless of course you are born financially secured. But for most of us, we go to work every day with people who we may not even like.
Even in the era of telework, Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings, we have to interact with each other as we develop collaborative working relationships nonetheless. Collaboration is a means to get things done. A healthy working relationship will make collaboration easy. Collaborative work makes difficult jobs easier as everyone works together rather than against each other.
Furthermore, our work is meaningful if it is an extension of who we are, providing us the opportunity to grow and self-actualize. We do not self-actualize in a vacuum. Building strong working relationships at work is perhaps the most important aspect of good work towards self-actualization. It benefits everyone. Positive working relationships help us focus on opportunities rather than spending our time overcoming the ill effects of poor working relationships. Synergistic work with others boost personal satisfaction, productivity, creativity, and innovation, not to mention it generates more fun. We spend most of our waking hours at work, we might as well have fun.
Think about it. Why do you like your job, or why do you hate your job? Most likely your answer is somewhere along the sentiments of because you like the people you work with.
It is not always about the pay. Many people leave a good-paying job because of sour relationships with people they work with. It could be their boss, their co-worker or any of their constituents. Overcoming poor working relationships is exhausting and emotionally draining. Escape seems like the best alternative. Only to find out that it is the same somewhere else.
Switch your thinking and be in charge. You can change your experience not be escaping, but by personally taking the responsibility of promoting positive working relationships. First, understand that working relationships are different from personal relationships. With-in a personal relationship, sharing emotions and personal truths are safe and supportively strengthen the relationship. Working relationship has a different essence. It is a formal association and serves the purpose of ensuring good teamwork and synergistic productivity.
So how do we working people do it? We have to work at it. Liking the people we work with is nice, but it is not a prerequisite. It can be an outcome. Building a healthy strong working relationship necessitates that we:
• Communicate honestly and openly — Communicate face-to-face, via email, or by Zoom just the same. Open and honest communication breeds mutual respect. And who does not want to be respected? Practice good listening skills by not only listening to the spoken words but also really understanding the message. Establish eye contact during the interaction if possible.
• Practice mutually respectful interactions — Recognize that everyone has different expertise and weakness who can uniquely contribute to the common good. Always value individual input and ideas versus shooting them down because they differ from yours.
• Embrace diversity — It makes the workplace more dynamic and fertile for new innovative ideas. Most workplaces employ a multi-generational, ethnically diverse group of workers who look at the world with different lenses. Diverse views and thinking is a valuable asset towards new solutions and innovations.
• Develop emotional intelligence — Your words and actions affect others. Be mindful and take responsibility for your words and your actions. Manage your emotions and choose your words carefully. Use your emotions to enhance your work relationships rather than destroy them. Your negativity breeds negativity. It solicits the same response from others.
• Build high level trust — Consider trust as the foundation of a healthy working relationship. Mutual trust among co-workers will inevitably form a formidable bond that can facilitate honest communication and mutual respect.
Difficult relationships are always a challenge, personally and professionally. Having conflict at work is inevitable as you work with a diverse group of people wearing different lenses many different cultural influences. Next time, a co-worker is rubbing you the wrong way, take a moment to switch your tendency. Try empathy, and an a cup of coffee, or tea and see what happens.