People get on with one another in a range of different ways at work. For instance, we might work in a particular way with colleagues in our team because we are focused on the job we are doing. But when it comes to lunch time we might relate to the people around us in quite a different way. The sort of relationship we have with our boss is likely to be different again.
One of the keys to building productive relationships at work is to try and sort out which relationships allow us to get things done, make us feel good and let us enjoy our contact with other people.
Try asking yourself, and maybe the people around you, what it is about these relationships that makes them hum? Look at what you do when a problem comes up. Is it easy or hard to talk about difficult things? Are these relationships where you can talk about how you feel about things? How do you let each other know when things have gone well?
The answers to these questions will tell you a lot about the skills you and your colleagues have for building relationships that work.
In the same way, you can identify what stops other relationships from working well. Ask yourself what happens when there is disagreement -- do people sulk, leave the discussion, shout at each other, or even resort to violence and abuse? What would you like to happen differently?
Relationships at work are much like the relationships in our personal lives -- they revolve around feelings. Being able to communicate what we are feeling to those around us, and to understand their messages to us, are important skills.
For instance, we need to understand our own feelings before we can talk about them to other people. Learning to identify our feelings takes practice and we sometimes need extra help -- from our families, friends or a counsellor.
Sometimes strong or uncomfortable feelings appear unexpectedly when we communicate with others at work. It's good to remember that there are ways of managing these feelings safely.
For example, if you're feeling angry with a work mate you might say: "I'm feeling angry about this. I need to take some time to cool down and think before we talk about it."
Problems can also arise at work when we don't listen to one another properly. This can cause misunderstandings, anger and resentment. Common signs are that people start to react defensively or blame each other. Sometimes they may stop communicating altogether, and become sulky and withdrawn.
If these signs sound familiar it might be that your team needs to find ways of talking about how well relationships are working. If things are particularly touchy, and the team can't work things out for itself, it might help to ask an independent organisation like Relationships Aotearoa to provide some facilitation or mediation.
Counsellors at Relationships Aotearoa can also help you to strengthen the skills you need to build productive workplace relationships.