Relationships in the workplace
We go to work to earn money and fulfill our basic needs such as buying food and clothes and putting a roof over our heads.
But as well as the need to earn money, people work to fulfill a variety of other needs. These include personal achievement, personal growth and potential, status, self fulfillment and social interaction. If these needs are not met it can result in a feeling of dissatisfaction.
Workplace relationships form a big part of our every day lives and if there are problems in this area, it can have a very negative effect on our moods and wellbeing. So whether you are an employer or an employee, there are ways that we can all help to make our working life a satisfying and rewarding experience.
One of the main problems at work can be attributed to poor communication. If an employer or manager does not communicate enough information or does not explain things clearly, an employee can feel confused and stressed resulting in poor performance.
On the other hand, if an employee does not communicate clearly to the hierarchy, then managers can be unaware of any problems of complaints or dissatisfaction within their workforce.
Therefore it is essential to have clear systems of communication.
When dealing with people, at any level, it is important to be respectful. It doesn't matter what position you hold in terms of hierarchy, everyone deserves to be treated equally in terms of respect. Never talk down to someone and never insult them, especially in the presence of others.
Manners and courtesy
Whatever the situation, say what you have to say clearly and calmly and be well mannered. Always remember to say 'please' and 'thank you' as it's a basic courtesy. People prefer to be spoken to politely and are consequently more likely to respond positively. There is no need to be rude or start shouting, even though you might feel you'd like to! This will only breed resentment and ill feeling and can inflame the situation.
Calmness and restraint
Customer services staff are one example of workers who are trained to be very skilled at keeping calm in difficult situations. When faced with a difficult customer, they show amazing patience and refuse to lose control even under extreme pressure. This way they keep their dignity and command much more respect than someone who resorts to ranting and raving.
Don't have a bad attitude to others in the workplace
People with attitude problems can be very difficult to like and get along with. They tend to have few real friends and are often involved in many conflicts. This type of behaviour can severely disrupt and de-harmonise the workplace and it's certainly not welcome. If you feel that you may have an attitude problem that needs addressing, try the Attitude questionnaire which may help you to understand this issue.
If you encounter a colleague with an attitude problem, the only thing you can do is humour them and try to switch off. Don't let it get to you, and don't react. Pity them, and be grateful that it's not you that has this problem.
Make people feel valued and appreciated
We all like to feel valued and appreciated but too many times we neglect to communicate this effectively.
We are very quick to point out when something is wrong, but too often we do not do the same for things that are done well, we often don't comment or say anything. So make an effort to acknowledge a job well done, a kind thought or anything that deserves merit.
Praise is a powerful tool !
Be a good listener
Everyone has the right to be heard and you should always listen to what someone has to say. Maintain eye contact throughout the conversation. It is very off putting if you talk to someone who keeps looking away from you while you're speaking to them. Poor listeners can make people feel undermined and resentful. Show interest in them and what they are saying, even though you may not want to.
How to get the best out of working relationships
It is inevitable that we will meet people who are difficult to get along with, especially in the work place. People can make life difficult for you at work for many reasons including:
- They lack motivation and job satisfaction and are unhappy in their job
- They like to exert their authority (power has gone to their head! Queen bee syndrome)
- They are under undue pressure at work or at home
- The business is in difficulty so the future is uncertain
- There's a personality clash
- They see you as a threat to their position, so they are critical, unreasonable or try to humiliate you
- They lost out to you for promotion and as a result treat you with contempt
- They resent you because you are younger/ more popular/ more successful/ better qualified
Understanding these types of behaviour will help you to cope with them better.
What you can do
There are no easy answers to work related problems as it is such a vast area, with all different types and sizes of businesses and services. However, no matter what your situation, there are some things you can do which will help you maintain more positive relationships with people at work, regardless of your status in the company.
- Enjoy going to work
Try to choose a job that you will enjoy as this will give you a feeling of satisfaction and make your working life easier and more of a pleasure than a chore
- Whatever your job, do it to the best of your ability
Always arrive on time and appropriately dressed, don't cut corners and only take breaks as designated in your contract. Make sure you meet any deadlines and honour any agreements with your colleagues. Being efficient means you won't give anyone cause to criticise you in this area.
- Don't be a shirker
Do the job you are paid to do. If you skive or shirk your duties it could put extra weight on other employees to cover for you, and this won't be welcome. Their thoughts will be, "Why should I do their work while they get paid for it?" This breeds resentment
- Avoid getting involved in spiteful or malicious gossip
Talking about people might be entertaining but it can also be unpleasant and have nasty repercussions. If someone is always gossiping to you about other people, it's worth remembering, 'What are they saying behind my back?' Gossip can also be malicious and full of mistruths so don't go there!
- Don't be generally negative or critical
If you keep criticising the company or your colleagues, it won't win you any friends and it creates a bad atmosphere around you.
- Avoid moaning
People get tired of listening to someone who moans a lot and it doesn't achieve anything.
- Be consistent
If you're friendly and bubbly one minute but sharp and unreasonable when things go wrong, or you feel under pressure, people will be wary of you. You must learn to control your emotions no matter what you feel because it's unfair to be difficult just because things aren't going well for you.
- Be a nice person to know
Being in the company of a friendly person with a sunny disposition is a pleasure, so try to be that person. Spread a little happiness at work and don't forget to be nice to everyone.
- Don't suck up
Never show people who could elevate your job position more attention or appreciation than others, as this will be noticed by other employees and make you unpopular.
Never pretend to be nice to someone who you really find it difficult to get along with, just be polite.
You don't have to be their best friend!
- Be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses
Knowing your limitations can help you avoid disappointment. If you try for promotion and don't get it, then analyse why. Perhaps you didn't have enough experience, or the successful candidate was better qualified. Whatever the reason be a good loser. Don't bear a grudge or blame anyone else, learn from it and move on.
- Show your appreciation
Always acknowledge anything of merit whether it's a job well done or a thoughtful gesture. We all like to be appreciated so make sure you show your appreciation to other people.
- Be helpful and supportive
Share your skill and knowledge with other staff. Some people try to do everything themselves or keep information to themselves because they feel it can make their position more secure. In reality this can be perceived as mean spirited and it isn't going to help you to form healthy, working relationships.
- Be flexible
A flexible attitude is a positive attribute at work. Don't let yourself be walked on but do show flexibility as this will stand you in good stead with other work colleagues.
- Count your blessings
Many people are unemployed and would love to work but they either can't get a job or are unable to work because of illness or disability. So whatever your situation, try and look at your job with a positive attitude.
- Avoid having a bad attitude
A bad attitude is a big friendship and relationship killer. Nobody likes a person with attitude problems, so if you feel this trait welling up in you at any time, throw water on it.
Problems with other colleagues
If you find you have a problem with a colleague at work that can't be ignored, speak to the person yourself to begin with. Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself, it's much better than bottling up resentment and letting it fester. As long as you deal with it in an appropriate manner you will feel better and be more respected because of it.
Be firm but polite. State your case clearly and calmly. This should work.
If it doesn't, then speak to them again and explain that unless things improve you will seek help from a third party. If this doesn't resolve the problem, or at least improve the situation, then it is time to approach the next person in the chain of command, such as a manager, and ask them for help and advice. Above all, exercise restraint, be firm and show professionalism.