A-Head for Success

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Sources of Negative Stress: Poor Working Relationships

Help for poor working relationshipsThey say that you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.  What about work colleagues?  When it comes to poor working relationships, for the most part we are either stuck with them or we find another job.

The longer we put up with it the worse it can be and the higher our stress levels.  So, what to do about it?  The causes can vary widely from problems at home, to differences in communication style and many more.  This is such a broad subject – worthy of a book of its own – but a simple strategy can help:

1. Understand driving values

A good starting point is to look at the motivations/values of the person you are having difficulty with.  When you understand where they are coming from it makes it easier to communicate with them.  I was working with one client whose values included getting things right, whereas his colleague’s was all about being on time.  They often had rows about the quality of things before release.  It wasn’t even that one didn’t respect timing or the other quality, it was the driving value which got in the way.  More about this later.

2. Find common ground

Though there may be much you disagree on, there will also be common ground.  Build on this and everything becomes that bit easier.  In the case above, the common ground was that they wanted to be perceived as doing the right thing for their boss, they just disagreed on what the right thing was:  to be on time or be perfect.

3. Take the pressure off

Remember that you aren’t there to like each other but to produce a result.  Of course it’s always easier if you can get along but the acknowledgement that you don’t have to like the other person can take the pressure off.  Conflict can turn into respect which can turn into collaboration.

4. Choose your style

The following image helps you to decide whether it is important for you to compete, collaborate, avoid, accommodate or compromise.   This is essential when considering your working relationships Each requiring differing levels of assertiveness and co-operativeness.  Each have a role to play but you need to think very carefully before competing, avoiding or accommodating as these can have negative consequences even though they may at times seem like the easiest option.


For example, accommodating someone who doesn’t listen to your needs simply teaches them to ignore your needs in the future causing deepening resentment.  On the other hand, it can be helpful to build goodwill.  It is all a balancing what you are giving up versus what you are gaining and simply choosing your default mode can build problems instead of neutralise them.  It helps to be more strategic than reactive.

Apologies but I am not sure of the source of this graphic so thank you, whoever you are!

For the most part, collaborating and compromise are the best way.  It certainly was in the case I described above but they were treating the situation as a competition.  As it happened, quality was much less important than timeliness in this case.  But sometimes it is the other way round.  And at other times it may be a little bit late and a little less perfect.  It is about understanding the bigger picture.  But often we get engrossed in our own perspective and lose sight of what’s really important.

Need more help to improve poor working relationships?

Working relationships are so important to achieving more success with less stress and I do hope that the above go some way towards improving yours.  If you do need additional support on this complex issue, why not call to find out how.  I can be reached on 0345 130 0854.

I also run courses on Influencing Skills where we cover this.  Let me know if you are interested.


(c) Tricia Woolfrey