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Repairing Workplace Relationships
By Sonya Buck, Australia


We’ve all been there. You certainly can’t get along with everyone in the workplace.

It might be the smallest thing that has damaged your relationship with a colleague, a differing opinion or just that you see things from another perspective. It may even be a gradual breakdown of the relationship with seemingly no cause.

We spend a lot of time working and it’s important that you feel comfortable and can work effectively each day.

The first thing you will feel like doing is avoiding the person altogether and this may be ok if you don’t interact with them on a daily basis, but if your work needs their co-operation it’s a whole different matter. Besides, there is nothing like feeling awkward when you run into them in the tearoom!

If it’s a long term issue, think about what caused or started the problem. Think honestly about what your role was in the situation? Also consider what the consequences will be if you don’t address the problem.

One thing you may need to move on from is blame, or who is right or wrong, otherwise this will be a big stumbling block in repairing your relationship. It’s also helpful to look forward and not back, as there is no use focusing on past issues.

Consider the positive things you admire about that person, not just the negatives, so that you can change your mindset.

Depending on the issues some repairs can take place through actions.

You may need to gradually change your behaviour towards the person. Rushing in and trying to be their best friend will only appear insincere and this may cause them to lift their guard. Remember you don’t need to be friends, this is a professional relationship.

You could ask them to collaborate on a project or ask them for their help. Ensure you communicate that you value their input.

Sometimes improving the workplace relationship will need a conversation and this should take place on neutral ground (not in your office or theirs) and in private. It might even require a coffee at lunchtime or a beer after work outside of your workplace.

During this conversation communicate how you would like to improve your relationship. Don't get personal. Instead, discuss your desire to make your work together more effectively and what you can both do to make this happen.

If the person you have a damaged relationship with is your employer, try to schedule a meeting with them as well. Remember to use ‘I’ phrases I feel, I’m concerned, etc instead of accusations ‘You’. Ensure you communicate you would like to solve this issue or problem and ask them how they believe you can do so. Alternatively, put forward your own solutions.

As a boss, if an employee approaches you about your relationship listen patiently and encourage their feedback. Ask for their solutions and put forward your own. Make a commitment to improve the problem. Remember a happy employee will be more productive.

Also as an employer you may experience situations where employees are clearly having difficulty getting along and this may be impacting the workplace. You will need to hold a meeting with the employees and facilitate a discussion. In this meeting you will need to be a neutral mediator and keep the discussion on track.

Remember damaged workplace relationships may not change overnight or be repaired entirely, but it’s worth the effort to ensure your workplace remains positive and productive and you can better enjoy your work day.