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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Creating Healthy Workplace Relationships

When our workplace relationships are deep, characterized by a living, breathing trust, there is resonance. We experience personal peace and true rest because we don’t have to “prove” ourselves over and over again. We possess an inner knowing that all is well because we are void of the concern and pressure of being judged. This state of peace and calm enables us to produce the best of results. A sense of harmony and oneness allows us to use our emotional energy to create, innovate and take risks. I once heard someone say, “Happiness is measured by the quality of our relationships.” I really like that saying, and I actually believe it’s true. An organizational leader’s greatest responsibility is to birth and cultivate right relationships in their domain of influence.

Here’s a quick test to see how well your organization is poised to develop healthy relationships enabling hoped-for results:

Is your culture driven by curiosity? Curiosity’s strength is found in suspending judgment while probing and musing (sometimes playfully) to learn new insights and to develop better decision-making. The opposite of being curious is being judgmental. When snap judgments are made about people or circumstances, the opportunity for learning has ceased. Not only that, it puts others on the defensive, driving emotional energy toward self-preservation rather than using that same energy to achieve corporate goals. Leaders, managers and co-workers that are judgmental by nature, create a toxic culture of suspicion preventing the organic development of strong relational bonds.

Do your leaders and managers listen well? Stephen Covey stated that most people listen to know how to respond, rather than working to truly hear what others are trying to say. People who lack communication skills create barriers, frustrating their audiences with obscure messages. Yet skilled listeners will work hard to hear what others are saying, and what they are not saying, by going past presentation methods and by actively creating clarity. They will use tools like discovery-based questions, and, stating back what they’ve heard but in more succinct form. A professional, even when feeling attacked, will choose to listen to what’s coming out of the other person’s heart versus their mouth, maintain composure, and attempt to resolve the issue peacefully.

Does your organization handle mistakes in an appropriate manner? If mistakes are viewed as sins, people will hide and fail to announce adverse trends when they occur. If, rather, they are seen as opportunities to grow and gain new insights, operational learning will result and people will develop honed technical skills. The benefit is corporate maturity. If, when things go wrong, we search for culprits (versus finding solutions to problems) we are not handling mistakes well. Using shame, harsh language, and punitive judgments will de-motivate the entire workforce regardless of who is at the center of the mishap. All eyes will be on the leader’s responses and behaviors. If the same mistakes are being made over and over again, there are likely strategic issues that require managerial attention.

The bottom line is that if we want to create resonance in the workplace, we must then work hard to create strong working relationships. Humans are the same everywhere—the courtesies we extend to the people in our homes and neighborhoods, and even with our clients, are the same good manners we need to employ when dealing with our staff.

I remember a woman in my running club telling me about an experience she had with her doctor during an annual checkup. She explained that when he burst into the examination room, he said, “We have a lot more of you to look at this year!” meaning she had gained weight. She was so infuriated by his comment that she literally fired him. No matter how good he was at his craft, to her he was not a good doctor. In those moments, when we as organizational leaders create bad experiences for others, we lose influence and drain people of their emotional energy, which would otherwise be used to serve and help us. They “fire” us, even though they may still be collecting a paycheck. Attending to the principles of healthy work relationships can keep your employees, like loyal customers, in the trenches with you.

Coaching questions: How are your personal and professional relationships progressing towards trust and intimacy? Where might curiosity, listening, and assisting play a greater role to develop healthy workplace relationships? Write your answers in your journal.

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