Your Relationships at Work – Are They Working?

by | Sep 12, 2018 | Business Management, Professional Growth

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”
– Edward Everett Hale

Scorecards. Dashboards. Thanks to metrics, we know if our business results are working. What about our work relationships?

My experience is working relationships are rarely discussed – until they are not working.

The workplace is awash in analytics and endless data to measure the numbers. Market share, profitability, and project management are just a few examples, yet we have few if any indicators of working relationships.

Working relationships center on how we get things done. How is difficult to measure and frequently subjectively evaluated based on no news is good news, or morale. No news and morale are not standards of excellence – we need a greater understanding of what is happening behind the numbers.

Behind the numbers we can learn…
– Did we aggressively finish the client project on time and leave bruised and broken relationships behind – costing us future business?
– Did we deepen a customer relationship by demonstrating initiative and a caring attitude?
– Does this high performer work well with others – are they a leader or follower?

I was once betrayed by a trusted peer, resulting in a compromised relationship that never recovered.

My peer and I were attending a senior leader meeting evaluating individuals for promotion consideration. I recommended a candidate and everyone, including my peer, supported my recommendation. I left the meeting satisfied and looking forward to announcing the promotion.

Immediately after the meeting my peer, realizing promoting my candidate would compromise the individual he unsuccessfully recommended, cornered our boss and proceeded to discuss an unfounded rumor about my candidate. My boss visited with me about the new information and I was angry – a victim. I realized the need to be a leader and asked to visit with my peer directly. We discussed the situation and he clearly understood my disappointment.

In the end, the outcome was the promotion was approved. More importantly, the lesson I learned was the importance of how not to treat my colleagues. Poor behavior by those we trust can teach us if we can recover and learn beyond our disappointment. Leadership courage enabled me to call out an ineffective relationship, and reinvest in allies I can depend on.

Three keys to establish effective relationships at work:

New Voices
One mistake we frequently make is limiting our relationships, relying on few people for information and ideas. We all have a circle of trust, built through experiences over the years, and my advice is to widen your circle. The people who have helped you so far may not be who you need to grow moving forward. Expand your network to include new voices, strangers who can stimulate your learning and impact. Move from who has influenced you to who should be influencing you.

Manage Relationship Drama
Stephen Karpman has identified a “drama triangle” we experience in the workplace. The triangle describes three behaviors: victim, rescuer, and persecutor. These labels are not who you are – they represent how you behave working with others. As victims we deflect responsibility on others and believe we have no control. Rescuers save the day and create dependency by others. Persecutors believe they have all the answers and don’t trust others. All three behaviors are not productive and can be blind spots we don’t realize. Others have seen you in this triangle – find out where you need to be more effective.

Become More Trustworthy
David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford in their excellent book The Trusted Advisor identify four principles to becoming more trustworthy: credibility, reliability, vulnerability, and a focus on others not yourself. To effectively work with others you need expertise, keep your promises, open up to let others understand you, and demonstrate a selfless orientation to help others. Relationships deepen through trust – identify which of these four principles you need to work on. My challenge is vulnerability – what is yours?

Coming together and keeping together is a start. Working together successfully requires a higher standard, built through your expanded circle of trust, managing inevitable drama, and becoming more trustworthy. We need others to be successful – how matters.

Have a great week!