Q&A - Building Effective Workplace Relationships
Following on the webinar recorded for the IGD on 22 February 2018 "Building Effective Workplace Relationships", there were a number of questions to which I've had a go at answering without having the full context of the situation.
You'll find those Q & A's below. You can catch up on the webinar here.
Q1. What can you do if people don’t engage with your efforts or aren’t honest?
Engaging and being honest takes time, effort and can feel very risky for some people. Consider what else they have going on and what might be at risk for them if they are honest. They may be as engaged and as honest as they feel safe to be in that situation. Remember that you can’t change anyone else, you can only continue to work on your own process of beliefs and engagement towards this person. Work through the first 3 Tips, really focusing on ‘why bother improving the relationship?’ What is the benefit to both of you and to your business performance? Try at least 3 different ways of inviting them into conversation to learn more about how they like to engage and have honest relationships ‘Would you be willing to have a conversation about what makes an engaging and honest workplace relationship?’
Q2. How do you build a relationship with someone who has no interest or desire to improve it?
I’m curious as to what benefit you will get from an improved relationship? Perhaps you need them to input into your work, so you can do a good job? So let’s imagine that this is a scenario where it feels like you need them, more than they need you.
Know your own answers ‘what do you hope to be different if this relationship improved?’ Be specific, what would be the tangible business outcomes.
Get talking to them. Share with them how important your working relationship is to your business performance. Find some common ground: Ask in which of their workplace relationships they might feel similar to you? Which ones are really important to them? How do they manage it? If there was one thing you could each do differently that would help the other what would it be?
Appreciate and focus on what interest and desire they do show, rather than what they don’t
Q3. What do you do if you encounter resistance to repair a fractured relationship? If you want to change, but they do not?
Let’s try a reframe: If you’re encountering resistance that’s a good thing. They have some energy invested in the relationship, even it you are experiencing it as negative. Let’s assume that you need to work together in order to do your jobs. As per my answer to Q1. You can only change yourself, not change them. Any force is likely to be met by an equal force. It may feel counter-intuitive but if you can let go of wanting to repair the relationship and instead step into a place of understanding you may find that it will start to repair. Work through Tips 1 to 4, and at the point of Tip 5, it can be helpful to acknowledge your responsibility for the fracture. To openly state what happened, what motivated you to act in that way and how you can see it has impacted them. If appropriate ask their forgiveness and willingness to learn from it and to leave it in the past.
Q4. How do you convince the other person to adopt the same approach in a fractured relationship?
Some of the other answers may have already give you some suggestions, and here is one further. Be bold, open and honest; here are 3 example opening statements:
Our relationship is affecting x, y and z for me and I suspect it’s not ideal for you either? Would you be willing to work on making it more functional? Here’s an approach we could use….
Who is your best relationship with at work? What difference would it make to you and your work if our relationship was like that one? Would you be willing if we could start over and take some steps to making it that great?
I recently attended a webinar about Building Effective Workplace Relationships and it’s got me thinking about our relationship. Would you be up for reflecting on what works and what doesn’t in order to see if together we can improve it?
Q5. How can I deal with someone being disrespectful and breaking rules?
Your choice of language of ‘deal with’ someone leads me to wonder about the nature of this relationship. I hear frustration in your question and wonder what is at risk to you if this person does not follow ‘the rules’? I encourage you to work through Tips 1 to 3, with particular focus on your judgement of them and starting to build a platform of belief in them. Your relationship sounds fractured at the moment, so starting with building compassion and understanding is critical. If you choose to ‘deal with’ them, you are trying to change them and they are most likely to resist with equal force, becoming more disrespectful and breaking more rules. Change your pattern of interaction by changing your own beliefs, words and actions first.
Q6. Does there become a point when you need to accept that the relationship will never work?
Possibly but at work, if it is a fractured relationship and you stop investing in it, this can result in either party leaving their job and at worst, their company. So before getting to this point, it’s important to give the relationship attention, intention, curiosity and courage. See the answers to Q1 to Q4 to see if they help. And if it does come to ending the relationship, see the answer to Q8.
Q7. How can I manage a relationship, for example with my manager, when it is fractured and I’m feeling too scared to talk to them?
I’m going to assume that you’ve worked through Tips 1 to 3. Preparing for Tip 4 and the questions you want to to ask of your manager sounds key:
Create questions which will remove your fear of them or of what you believe they might do to you.
Perhaps seek out someone who has a good relationship with your manager to help you frame your questions.
Work on building both confidence and some skills to have the conversation you want. It requires courage and belief.
Alongside this, it can be supportive to do some worst case scenarios and to focus on what’s scary. Ask yourself what’s a potential reality and what’s an imagined perception. Ask yourself ‘Who or what can help me eradicate my imagined perception and help build the courage to speak?’ Fear is always connected to ‘future loss’. What are you worried that you are going to lose?
Q8. What do you do if you currently have a fractured relationship, that you know is coming to an end soon. Is it worthwhile to invest building it when there is an 'expiry date’?
Try thinking about it as ‘ending well’ rather than ‘building it’ for the following 4 reasons:
The world is an incredibly small place and people have a habit of popping up at a later date.
It supports our own well-being to leave things well rather than unresolved.
An ‘expiry date’ can give you both the freedom to reflect more objectively and voice, what has perhaps, been left unsaid.
It gives you an opportunity to learn from the relationship in order to help you prevent a future relationship going the same way.
Q9. Are there other ways to ask and get to know their motivators without being so direct?
Yes, you can observe and listen carefully. We act in order to fulfil our needs. Here are some examples:
You see someone who likes to decide what to do, when to do it and how to do it: They are motivated by having freedom to choose, this meets their need for autonomy.
You see someone who highly values being amongst the team, they bring the team together socially, and you’re likely to find them chatting at the coffee machine. They are motivated by participation to meet their need of belonging.
You see someone who always speaks up in meetings, does stuff for other people, and likes to be helpful. They are motivated by being given the opportunity to contribute to meet their need for giving.
Here’s an alternative way of asking them and you can listen out for their needs and how they like to fulfil them “Tell me about a role/ project/ work experience that you felt most in flow. What was going on? How did you work? What did you appreciate about the way you got to work?”
Q10. What are your tips for starting a new job - getting a new team and initiating these tips from the start?
My top tip is to meet each of the team individually and split your time between building your understanding of them and also sharing what’s important to you particularly around motivators, trust and communication preferences. Teams need people with different motivators and preferences to succeed, to be creative, deliver and succeed, however it is these differences which are also the source of every fractured relationship. Knowing the red flag areas up front can really help take the angst out of them when they occur later on.
My second tip comes from the 4 reasons to bother with relationships. If you build a team that covers all 4 bases it gives it a strength and flexibility to evolve and survive.
Doing the job: What work requires the team to work interdependently together and independently of each other? Put structures in place to support any interdependence. Resource the team with knowledge, skills and freedom to complete any work that can be done independently of each other.
Human need to belong: What human needs for belonging need to be met within this group of people. Have a conversation with them about what being in a team means to each of them. What does this team mean to them? What other teams are they part of?
Personal learning and growth: How can this team help each person grow and develop? What is one thing each person can learn from another in the team? Put the differences to good use!
Organisational (Group) learning: In order to learn and evolve as a team, encourage regular reflection on the pattern of your team dynamic. Using the metaphor of a river, what qualities does it have? What does this enable? What does it disable?