Repair Professional Relationships in 7 Simple Steps

Repair Professional Relationships in 7 Simple Steps
Repair Professional Relationships in 7 Simple Steps

By: Liz Azyan

Is it really possible to repair professional relationships, even when you’re not sure what caused the damage? Read on and find out:

As much as we’d like to hope that the workplace can be a venue where mature, rational minds prevail (and arguments and misunderstandings are kept to a minimum), it isn’t always the case. In reality, any place where you put a bunch of people together for an extended period of time can become fertile ground for disagreements and clashes.

You might think that childhood friendships or couples are the most fragile and complex types of relationships — well, think again. Surprisingly, work relationships can be even tougher to balance and negotiate. Why, you ask? How is it possible that a relationship that should be strictly professional and no-nonsense ends up being more of a challenge to maintain?

Consider this: childhood friendships are forged via a wide range of reasons and factors: proximity of residence, interests and hobbies, attending the same school, and even existing familial ties. Relationships between partners are typically founded on love, mutual attraction, or sexual desire.

Work relationships, on the other hand, can be much more fragile than other types of relationships, simply because at their core, their only true binding element is the fact that you work together. Sure, such bonds can grow stronger over time, but in all honesty, you’re not really given much to start with.

Furthermore, the workplace tends to be a silent (and sometimes, not-so-silent) battleground hosting an endless struggle of egos, as everyone is jockeying for positions and propelled by the desire to advance. For this reason, even the smallest slights that might be ignored in other settings can ruffle someone’s feathers at work in a significant way.

Of course, you’re not consciously going out of your way to infuriate other people in the workplace, since you’re mostly just worried about your own performance. That’s why it’s common for people involved in workplace disputes to not know what they did in the first place. It just so happens that in the office, everybody is looking out for themselves — and that includes you.

This is also why you should always strive to maintain a good professional relationship with your workmates. The office doesn’t have to be a toxic environment — and it’s up to you to make sure of that.

Therein lies the question, though: How, exactly, should you go about repairing professional relationships? I’d like to share my insights and experiences — in fact, I’ve come up with a simple and effective (I think!) list, and it only takes 7 steps.

Repair Professional Relationships in 7 Simple Steps

How to repair professional relationships with ease

1. Make an effort to isolate the problem.

Before you even decide to approach your coworker, ask yourself first: What IS the issue here, exactly? Charging in without knowing why you had a dispute in the first place will only make things worse. Try to think back to the last time you and your officemate were okay, and work your way towards identifying the problem from there. If you must, you can also ask for the opinion of a trusted coworker. Make sure you don’t end up ranting, though — or worse, turning it into a pity party!

2. Make time for a face-to-face conversation about the problem.

If you want a mature resolution to a problem, deal with it like an adult. Don’t rely on notes or email, and definitely resist the urge to make passive-aggressive jabs. Instead, schedule a formal meeting with the other party. Make the reason vague enough for them to agree to meet you without setting off any alarms. Ideally, this meeting should be set a few hours after you extend the invitation. Don’t let the moment pass you buy, and don’t let your coworker’s rage evolve into something even deeper.

3. Be clear about the purpose of this meeting.

If you want a mature resolution to a problem, deal with it like an adult. Don’t rely on notes or email, and definitely resist the urge to make passive-aggressive jabs. Instead, schedule a formal meeting with the other party. Make the reason vague enough for them to agree to meet you without setting off any alarms. Ideally, this meeting should be set a few hours after you extend the invitation. Don’t let the moment pass you buy, and don’t let your coworker’s rage evolve into something even deeper.

4. Avoid the desire to pass blame on the other party.

This is pretty self-explanatory. Resist the urge to antagonize the other party. Arguments, like friendships, are a two-way street. Chances are that you’re both to blame for this somehow, so avoid passing the blame around.

5. Brace yourself for harsh words, but also learn to hold your tongue.

Don’t expect the other person to be diplomatic. Just because you’ve managed to cool down doesn’t mean the other person has, too. And don’t take offense at whatever the person has to say. Keep in mind that we say a lot of things we don’t really mean when we’re angry.

6. Put yourself in the other party’s shoes.

Now that you’ve explained your side and heard the other party’s take on the situation, try to assess why they acted (or reacted) the way they did. If you need to ask clarificatory questions, now’s the time to do so. And please, try your best not to instantly retaliate. This is a mature discussion, not a Spaghetti Western.

7. Don’t just propose a solution -- make it so that it’s a mutual effort to resolve the problem.

Now that words and ideas have been exchanged, it’s time to move towards solving the problem. Try not to dominate the discussion, though, and do your best to reach the desired, mutually beneficial conclusion with the other party.

Workplace relationships tend to be particularly sensitive and fragile. Thus, addressing the issue directly and promptly will often alleviate these disputes quickly, as many disagreements at work are simply results of small misunderstandings.

Remember: The sooner you address the issue, the sooner both of you can move on and mend your relationship.

Have you ever had professional relationships that were damaged by misunderstandings or disagreements? What steps did you take to resolve them? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below — feel free to share them!

Repair Professional Relationships in 7 Simple Steps

Author: Liz Azyan

Liz Azyan is the CEO & Founder of Digital Matchbox. Digital Matchbox is a
boutique digital agency based in London, UK that can help you or your business
spark your online presence.