Cultivating Effective Work Relationships

Posted by Jan Lawrence

When it comes to cultivating effective working relationships, winning teams measure their success by looking at the overall health of their team’s relationships.

The primary reason for this is we all work with people. The relationships we form with others are important in making our job interesting and motivating. But when teams are filled with conflict, ambiguity, and poor communication everybody in the team will become negatively impacted.

The working relationships on the team form the basis of promotion, goal accomplishment and job satisfaction. People on teams need each other.  Therefore, it is worthwhile investing time into thinking about the best ways to develop a healthy working relationship with colleagues. There are two ways to do this. One is to focus on looking at how you can help your team apply a win-win approach to working relationships over a win-lose strategy.

Win-win is approaching issues from the perspective that everyone wins, from work colleagues and managers to clients and customers. Win-lose strategies pursue individual interests and goals over team objectives.  Promoting win-win efforts is a primary way you can cultivate effective working relationships.

The second way you can contribute to a healthy working environment is to examine how your team and management are able to deal with conflict. It is often the case that unhealthy teams focus more on problems than devising solutions. Focusing on problems can lead to win-lose approaches, as team energy is concentrated on blame and finger pointing versus support, assertive communication and active listening.

Dealing with conflict is one of the most difficult things for a team to manage as behaviours can easily become passive-aggressive.  In other words instead of being assertive about a situation or with a person anger is shown in a much more covert way.  The first step of managing any type of conflict on a team is to offer support. Ask yourself how can I be supportive to the team effort?

Next is to listen fully, without interruption or judgment to colleagues and managers. This opens the door to good communication. Doing so leads to win-win scenarios, and paves the way for a healthy working environment

Then be assertive. Take action. This avoids certain negative behaviours such as being passive aggressive. For example, if you have a problem with a person don’t ambush them by directing emails to the manager or announcing the problem you have in a meeting. Contact the person directly before sending the email or making announcements in your meeting.  In fact, if you do have an issue with an individual it is much better to let the person know what the issue is, how you feel about it and be specific about what you want from the person in the future.  This type of assertive behaviour avoids simmering resentment which can at times lead to work rage.

Contributed by Angela Smith