What to Do When Professional Relationships Go Wrong

By Martina McGowan

Work relationships are often much more brittle than our other relationships. In the usual workplace, we find constant battles of egos, people jockeying for position, and others who are motivated only by a desire to advance their own careers, no matter the cost. Small slights that might be ignored in other settings can ruffle someone’s feathers at work.

Most often, petty slights are purely unintentional. In fact, when we are on the receiving end of someone else’s wrath and revenge, we are at a loss for the reasoning behind the downturn of our the relationship. At work, far too many individuals are on the ever-vigilant search for even the slightest sign that someone is either on their side or working against them. This is a very exhausting way to approach our lives five-and-a-half 5 days a week.

If things feel like they have gone awry, you will have to put in work to overhaul your workplace relationships in both a mature and a professional manner:

1. Try to identify to identify the specific issue.

  • Before you address your colleague, spend a little time attempting to identify the source of the problem. This, of course, can prove challenging.
  • The origin of the friction may be something very subtle and difficult to diagnose.
    • Your best clues probably come from the first time you noticed something is wrong.
    • The incident likely started at that moment, or before. But, now you are aware discord, and can actively choose to do something to make things different.
    • Ask a trusted co-worker for their insight. Someone else may understand the other person’s perspective on the disagreement better than you do.

2. Schedule a time to meet.

  • Set up a time to meet with the other party.
  • Avoid disclosing the specific reason before the meeting.
  • Do not wait too long to have your meeting. Giving the other person too much time to think and prepare does not work well.

3. Articulate your purpose.

  • Now that you are meeting face to face, tell them what you want.
  • You may want to state that you would like to work toward the best possible relationship in the future.
  • If you have some confusion surrounding the issue, state that as well.

4. Talk about the current state of the relationship.

  • Describe how you view the current state of affairs.
  • Avoid the impulse to blame or judge. Just call things as you see it.
    • Rehearse this part of the conversation prepared ahead of time, so you can be clear.
  • Speak to your own shortcomings in the relationship as well.

5. Then, stop talking.

  • Prepare to get to get blasted.
  • You have called the meeting and stated your perspective. You know that this other person is already annoyed with you.
  • Expect the response to be either tough or tearful; most often, the former.
  • Listen to what they have to say.

6. Commit to understanding.