How to Build more Effective Working Relationships
We can’t all be expected to get on with everyone all of the time, but it seems that in an ever complex and busy workplace, it is becoming more difficult to create and sustain effective working relationships. Only a few years ago team members often went to the pub after work to bond over a drink, but nowadays, with an increase in commuting time, workload and team sizes or virtual teams, a quick drink after work isn’t as simple to organize.
According to the CIPD ‘the single most common contributor to conflict is differences in personality or styles of working’ with around half of employees citing personality clashes as the key issue, followed by high workload, general stress, dishonesty and poor leadership also derailing working relationships. Some statistics suggest that 85% of employees have experienced conflict at work, with 30% saying it happens on a frequent basis and managers reporting they can spend up to 2 – 3 hours each week attempting to resolve disputes.
When a manager and team member or two colleagues have different needs, interests, values or motivators, conflict can arise and communication can become personal: ‘You never finish projects on time!’ as well as accusatory: ‘Why do you always blame Marketing?’ Team members can then become defensive and deny responsibility, respond with a complaint of their own, start making excuses, or lose interest and motivation. Negative body language, such as rolling of eyes and even tutting, can ensue resulting in a general breakdown in constructive communication.
Nowadays the art of Active Listening is also dying out as we are all side-tracked by multiple forms of technology, open–plan offices and extremely high workloads. Consequently managers and employees often miss-hear, miss-understand or miss-interpret what they have heard or been told and relationships start to deteriorate.
What team members look for in a positive working relationship are:
- Mutual trust and respect
- Clear, open, honest and regular Communication
- Taking Responsibility for Words and Actions
- Accepting generational and cultural differences
- Acknowledgement that everyone is working towards the same vision, mission and goal
Surveys find that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing relationships and when close working relationships exist levels of employee engagement increase. In a survey by Gallup they found that those employees who said they had a best friend at work were seven times more likely to be actively engaged.
Here is a 10 Point Plan to build more effective Working Relationships
- Identify your key Stakeholders: those people who have an interest in your work, projects, objectives and career. Then decide how you need to communicate with them on a regular basis, i.e. verbally, by email, using a consultative approach, or just keeping them informed about what you are doing and why.
- Identify those people who have the most influence or impact on your work, such as your leader, key customer or supplier. If you are not spending enough time with them to develop the working relationship then diarise regular 1:1s and meetings, preferably face to face. Many working relationships break down because of miss-understandings caused by the tone of an email.
- Clarify what your key stakeholders need from you, when, why and in what format.
- Use Active Listening to empathise with what the other person is saying, nodding to acknowledge their interests and needs, using key words and open questions and summarise the key points to ensure you have understood correctly.
- Identify what type of personality type they are. Using Personality Questionnaires, such as the Strength Deployment Inventory or NEO, can help you to understand what motivates your stakeholders and team members. You are then able to understand ways to adapt your style in order to have a more productive working relationship.
- Develop and use your Emotional Intelligence to better understand your own and your stakeholders emotions and increase self-awareness.
- Give regular positive and constructive feedback and remember to praise and celebrate success.
- Maintain a Positive Mental Attitude as ‘emotions are infectious’ and no one wants to hear someone constantly moaning and being negative.
- Clarify roles and responsibilities and learn to say ‘No’ assertively to create boundaries in the working relationship.
- Very importantly, maintain confidentiality. Don’t become involved in gossip and office politics; chances are your comments will reach that person you’ve been criticizing, or worse, your boss/customer/supplier and lead to a dispute. Remember that if you tell one person something in confidence, chances are they will repeat that ‘secret’ to seven other people!
At Natural Talent we often facilitate Executive Coaching Sessions, Board Meetings, Senior Leadership Team Meetings, Cross-functional Team Away Days and Manager – Team Member Sessions in order to improve working relationships. We identify the different personality types involved and how individuals can adapt their approach to improve stakeholder management, as well as identifying different styles of communication, management and leadership, how to flex styles and increase levels of Emotional Intelligence.