In workplaces, you find an array of personalities that you are supposed to be able to work with. You can’t predict how you will relate to your colleagues, and you need to find ways of working amicably with all. Strong working relationships can move you well through your career; a bad working relationship can do a lot of damage.
It takes all types of people with different and diverse backgrounds and skills to make a workplace, but how do you make the most of the opportunities available to you, manage your expectations and minimise conflicts?
- Evaluate the impact of relationships and strengthen weaknesses
A good start is to look at the strengths and weaknesses of colleagues. What makes them tick? How do your colleagues go about their work in relation to yours? Draw a relationship chart – put yourself in the middle and look at how others impact your work. Who are the most important people who interact with you? This person may not be your direct manager. Do you supervise others? How much do you impact their work and vice versa? Use this chart to flag potential weaknesses and focus on strengthening those.
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) (see www.myersbriggs.org) is a useful tool to evaluate your personality. According to Myers Briggs “…If people differ systematically in what they perceive and in how they reach conclusions, then it is only reasonable for them to differ correspondingly in their interests, reactions, values, motivations, and skills.” Knowing your strengths and weaknesses as well as colleagues and focussing on strengthening weaknesses can help in addressing pressure points.
- Get creative with your approach with colleagues
Administrators look beyond the box, but also like to make sure they know where the box edges are. In looking at a project, you need to know who leads, who is involved, the processes and procedures for delivery, and other factors that impact the project. Knowing who is on the team can be as helpful as knowing how to deliver a project.
Do you have a colleague that usually misses their deadlines? Give them deadlines that are complimentary to both of you (I call these fake deadlines). Are there people in the office that are the type that takes an hour coffee break? Don’t plan calls if you know they have a regular schedule. If you are a person that is very process orientated you may find it challenging to work with people who don’t tend to work in a structured environment. But what steps can you take to minimise potential conflicts to your work? By being aware and preparing accordingly to your colleagues habits it can greatly help you to manage your work planning.
- Get to know your colleagues
Getting to know your colleagues is such a useful way to understand how they will work, although this is not always an option. In a big workplace do you only talk to your immediate colleagues, or do you engage with others in other departments/areas? By knowing a little bit more about colleagues not only can it help break the ice, it may also mean during the stressful times you may find an understanding of how to deal with things together.
It doesn’t need to be a large investment in a relationship, and there’s a level of professionalism that needs to be maintained (eg. don’t get drunk with or in front of your colleagues), but knowing a little bit about your colleagues can go a long way in building good relationships in your workplace.
- Speak up
Don’t be scared to speak up if you find someone is stopping you from doing your job properly. Building relationships are good practice, but it’s understandable you may not get on with everybody, and this can cause you issues if the conflict is not addressed. It is sometimes very difficult and uncomfortable to speak up to a colleague who may or may not be bullying you, but if it’s not addressed it can also have a considerable impact on your life. Assess the situation first and write down the issues, concerns, physical indicators and dates of any incidents in case issues escalate beyond your control.
What has caused the conflict? Is it something specific? Can you work through the issue with your colleague without taking it further? People have bad days, and if you can recognise the signs you may be able to find simple, workable options to issues that could have a number of knock-on negative effects otherwise. Colleagues may also not realise they are having an impact on you. By speaking up you may address an issue before it becomes a problem.
By evaluating and understanding all the different personality types in your workplace, you can manage your expectations and make your work environment a great place to work.