Introduction to Coworker Relationships
Managing coworker relationships involves walking the tightrope between friendly and not-too-friendly, creating a balance between aloofness and bonhomie. Building good coworker relationships is obviously an uphill task in such a scenario. However, like all relationships, it requires patience and time. And it involves self-analysis and awareness on your part and an understanding of the dynamics of power and politics in organizations.
Build Good Coworker Relationships
Have you faced a situation at the workplace when you have felt that all your coworker relationships were the worst possible you could ever have? And that everyone seemed to be busy plotting and scheming against your plans, and was gleefully waiting for your downfall?
Welcome to the club.
Every single working person has faced this situation at least once or more in his/her professional life. Professional life is full of landmines, created by the push and pull of office politics, the changing equations between people working together. And it does not matter whether you are working in a corporate office, or educational institution, or NGO, as long as you have coworker relationships, you will have to deal with power struggles, conflicts, and stress. You need to be friendly to garner the support of your coworker attraction and have a healthy work atmosphere. At the same time, you have to be careful not to be too friendly, or you tend to lose the professional equilibrium at the office.
Does this seem too much hard work for you? Believe me, it is actually quite simple. Let’s see step by step.
What kind of person am I?
What type of personality are you? Before we categorize coworker relationships and learn how to deal with them, let us first check our motivations and inner orientations.
- Type A or Type B? Type A people are ambitious, energetic and impatient to reach their goals. If you are Type A, chances of a run-in with your coworker relationships are more, as your ambitious and impatient nature is bound to clash with similar ones.
- Introvert or Extrovert? Introverts tend to avoid social company and prefer to stay alone as a rule. If you fall into this category, you will tend to keep to yourself and will hardly reach out to coworkers.
- High or Low Self-esteem? If your self-esteem is low, you are likely to be more affected by any adverse comments or negative feedback from coworkers.
- Communicative or Tongue-tied? People with better communication abilities can reach out better to people around them, and express their own feelings and ideas better. If you are naturally reticent, you will have to make extra effort to bond with people.
- Positive or Negative Affect? If you focus on the positive aspects of others and your work, you are less likely to suffer from work-related stress. You will concentrate on building positivity in relationships.
You may have difficulties in slotting yourself into one particular category, as each of us is a combination of various personality traits. However, once you are aware of your own emotional and mental strengths and failings, you can work better towards building good relationships with coworker relationships.
Power and Politics
Organizational culture and dynamics have a role to play in whether you are able to build good relationships with your coworkers or not. The policies and power structure, managerial control, the level of autonomy, all influence the extent of interaction and bonding between employees.
Power play and politics are a part and parcel of work-life. Wherever there are more than two people working together, sparks are bound to fly! You must understand the political atmosphere of your workplace.
If your organization encourages unethical uses of power and political behavior, the relationships between individuals and groups are unlikely to be healthy. In such cases, survival becomes the prime goal of job holders, and they resort to various tactics to retain their position. If you are in such an organization, you need to maintain a high level of integrity to be able to influence your coworkers and bond with them. Informal bonding and out of office friendships can thrive in such cases.
Types Of Coworkers Relationships
One of the first lessons you may have learned about joining the workplace is that people behave in a different manner in varied situations. One moment you are sharing confidences with your cubicle neighbor, the next moment when the boss starts lecturing you on your mistakes, your confidante is solemnly nodding in agreement and giving you holier-than-thou looks.
You will soon come to terms with such chameleon-like behavior of coworkers, and perhaps label them as villains. But if you think logically, you will be able to understand that workplace behavior is dominated by various compulsions. And being true to your friendship is probably not one of them.
By and large, I think coworkers can fall into the following categories:
- Conservative and averse to risks, security-oriented: These coworkers will resist any attempt of yours to upset the status-quo. They are supremely concerned with job security and prefer stability above everything else. They are averse to change.
- Dominant, ambitious and goal oriented: These people are driven, ambitious and goal-oriented. To them, success means achieving work targets and proving their worth. To them, coworker relationships matter as long as they help in achieving work goals.
- Social, interested in networking with others: The original social network, such people want to know everything about everyone. They will chat, gossip and build informal social relationships at the workplace. To them, a happy workplace is one where everyone knows each other on intimate terms and meets outside office too.
- Power-hungry and manipulative: The power-hungry coworker will tend to do everything to attain and keep power. These people usually resort to unethical means to keep power and indulge in political strategies.
- Happy-go-lucky, laidback and casual in their approach: This type usually tries to avoid working too hard, and adopts a casual indifference towards achieving work targets. While they are great at enlivening the work atmosphere, they usually lag behind schedules and tend to avoid responsibility.
Since each co-worker is different in sensibilities and behavior, you need to treat them accordingly. Adopting a professional approach is the best way to develop good relationships in the workplace.
What can I do to build good co-worker relationships?
Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, good co-worker relationships are not built overnight. You need to work on them. Common courtesies like
greeting coworkers first thing in the morning, offering a genuine smile, sharing lunch, showing genuine sympathy when things go wrong, remembering birthdays, etc. do matter.
And if you do want to work towards building great relationships, then the following tips may help:
Support, and lend a helping hand
Offer your support to coworkers when they need it the most, for example, during personal distress, family emergencies, and stressful situations. Don’t wait to be asked, just offer a helping hand. This gesture of yours will go a long way in building rock-solid relationships. If your coworker wants to share confidences with you, lend an ear but desist from offering advice. Be empathetic towards the problems of your coworkers. Workplace relationships, just like every other relationship, are based on mutual support and give and take.
Desist From Discussing Office Politics With Coworker Appreciation
If you have been in a job for a year or so, I am sure you have burned your fingers with this one. A juicy discussion, on who was backstabbing whom in the company, turns sour with your comments being relayed to the concerned person or your conversation having been overheard. Office politics is a landmine that is best avoided in canteen chats and informal discussions with coworkers. You never know who is on which side, and before you know it, your light-hearted comments are misinterpreted and some of your colleagues are avoiding you.
Use proper channels of communication, never out-step the chain of command
Jobholders are sometimes overly conscious of their authority in the workplace, and if you happen to undermine your coworker’s position or authority through your words or actions, then your relationship may be permanently damaged. Be careful to communicate through official channels and processes.
Even if your equation with your coworker’s subordinate is rocking, avoid sidestepping the chain of command. If you want something done by him/her, communicate via your coworkers, or at least keep your coworker informed.
If you are sharing resources, communicate your requirements well in advance
Remember the time when you wanted an urgent printout from the shared printer, and were dismayed to see your coworker taking out reams of report printouts? You had to wait for an hour and your assignment got delayed.
Shared resources are a source of several inter-personal conflicts. It is always better to inform in advance that you will be using the printer or copier, or even common spaces like conference rooms. This way you can avoid stepping on anybody’s toes or delaying someone else’s work.
Say no politely when it is not possible for you to meet their demands
Saying no to requests is something most of us can’t do, for fear of offending others. What we don’t realize is that if we fail to deliver later, it causes more heartburn and disappointment. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier that you can’t do it?” is the common complaint you will hear from your coworker appreciation if you can’t deliver on unreasonable or last-minute demands.
Your “no” will put off your coworker appreciation, sure, but you will be saved from a lot of letting down later. A lot of workplace problems can be avoided by saying no firmly, but politely at the right time.
If your coworker attraction has upset you with his/her behavior or actions, confront him/her directly instead of complaining to the boss
We are all emotional creatures, and however much we try to keep our behavior professional in the workplace, there are times when upsets do occur. Egos are hurt and personality clashes do take place. So what do you do then? Go running to your boss complaining? Hoping that a third party will intervene and make things all right? Sulk for days, and avoid your coworker attraction?
Please don’t do any of the above. Have a direct chat with your coworker, and convey what has upset you. Maybe he/she will try to avoid the topic or will justify his/her actions, whatever it is, give it a good listening. Then put forward your point of view. Direct communication solves most problems that avoidance and shoving under the carpet can’t.
Keep Your Distance From Whiny, Negative Coworker Appreciation
Wherever you work, my bet is you will find one or two whining, complaining, perpetually-disgruntled coworkers. They will complain against all and sundry and play the eternally-wronged victim. Some people have a persecution complex ingrained in them. Avoid them like the plague. Negative people spread negativity in the workplace. It is best to stay away from such people. You cannot hope to build good relationships with them, as they are steeped in a sense of having been wronged. Instead, you will find yourself being sucked into all kind of politics and stressful situations. Best avoided.
If you are on close terms with a co-worker, don’t always choose to stick to him/her
You will always have some preferred coworkers, those who vibe well with you and you build great friendships with. While it is normal to choose to collaborate with friendly and supportive colleagues, make it a point to work with everybody in teams and groups.
Friendships and personal relationships must not be allowed to overpower professional equations in office. Don’t let other coworkers appreciation resent your closeness with one or two colleagues. Soon, before you know it, you will be accused of bias and preferential behavior. Show equal enthusiasm towards working with everyone.
Don’t let your ego come in the way of saying sorry when you are wrong
Most of the time, unconsciously, we tend to behave from a high-handed point of view, sermonizing, lecturing, holding people responsible for errors, etc. When we reflect on our behavior later, realization dawns on us, that maybe we were too rash in our judgment. Maybe we wrongly berated someone.
So it is apology time now. Slip into your rational persona, and acknowledge that you were mistaken. It takes a lot of nerve to own up to mistakes, particularly errors of judgment. But you don’t want to permanently spoil your relationship with your coworker appreciation. So go ahead and say sorry.
Be wary of a third person taking advantage of your conflict with your coworker
Arguments and disagreements are common in the workplace and can occur between the most compatible of workers. Inter-personal conflicts affect at least two persons, but they may benefit a third person. A jealous or resentful coworker relationship can take advantage of your disagreement and worsen matters between you and your otherwise supportive coworker. Be careful about that, and clear the air as soon as possible.
Besides the above ways to build good co-worker relationships, there is another step towards that direction, and that is to develop a sense of humor. Do you take yourself, your official position and designation too seriously? It’s time to loosen up a bit, develop a sense of humor. People do not always want to offend you purposely, neither do coworker relationships always plot against you. Realize the fragility of your ego, and deal with things with your mind, not the heart.
Your efforts towards relationship building are bound to be noticed and appreciated by coworker relationships. And before you know it, your workplace equations would have changed for the better. So keep at it, and remember the most important trait: PATIENCE!
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