Having successful relationships in the workplace requires only three simple things:

  1. people who think exactly like you do.
  2. people who have the same exact needs as you.
  3. people who have a perfect history with you.

If you DON'T have these three things, then I'd consider you normal. And, if you do have these three things, they're likely to be accompanied by their three cousins -  groupthink, mediocrity, and stagnation.

The fact of the matter is that we all bring our different perspectives, goals, values, and backgrounds into the workplace. We have different ways of seeing the world and different preferences in how we approach our work.

Those differences don't make it easier to get along or to solve problems and make decisions together. And, when those differences aren't addressed, work can become dissatisfying, discouraging, and dis-engaging.  It takes a ton of energy to get through the day and our resumes tend to be ready for greener passages.

Are there folks on your team with whom you'd like to reduce conflict and improve relationships?

Here are three tools to help you out.

1. Understand Your Style Differences. Some people are assertive and bold in their approach to getting things done; others are more methodical. Some people prefer to focus on the facts and figures, others on the people side of the equation. None of these styles are right or wrong. They are just different. Each offer strengths to the team, and, when overused, those strengths can become limations. Meet with your team member and identify where your styles are similar and different and put an action plan in place to close the gap. I often use the DiSC profile and the accompanying comparison reports to help in this process.

2. Identify Unmet Underlying Needs. People often argue about surface-level things. "I'm tired of not being able to count on her.." or "she is so condescending..."  My friend and colleague Jeannie Gunter introduced me to the work of Marshall Rosenberg on Nonviolent Communication. The premise of his work is that conflict is often the result of underlying unmet needs. So, peel back the onion with your colleague. What are your underlying unmet needs? How about his or hers? Is it respect? Acceptance? Honesty? Autonomy? Get to the root of where your true needs lie.

3. Acknowledge your history AND let it go. If you've worked with many of the same colleagues for a long time, you have a history. In that history there are times where you've all been at your best and not-so-best. You all have changed, grown, and adopted new perspectives. Often times relationships get  bogged down with all of the baggage and history that people have had together. You know what I'm talking about..."and then you did this...and then you did this...and then you did this" - even though it was five years ago. Talk about your history, acknowledge how you both feel about it, and then let it go. You have to start with a clean slate.

Need help with your workplace relationships? Make the time to understand your style differences, identify unmet needs, and acknowledge and let go of your history.

Or, you could look for people to work with who are exactly like you.

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