The power of ‘relationships’ at work

April 29, 2015

Ever faced a situation when a team member returns to work after a long leave and gets angry at you?  I faced it once in the beginning of my career.

One of my staff went on leave for three weeks. The day he returned, he was furious. Reason: I had not assigned his work to anyone in his absence and the work had piled up. He dashed into my office with a stack of files, dumped them on my table and said, “What is the purpose of going on leave when I have to do all this work myself.” For some reason instead of getting annoyed, I smiled and said, “I thought you had taken leave to attend a family wedding. First tell me how did the wedding go?” He calmed down and described the family wedding experience. We then returned to discuss his problem.  I explained that I had assigned only the urgent work to another colleague but the tasks which could wait were not assigned. He was not totally convinced but felt better to have been heard. No doubt, he was a difficult colleague who always found something or the other to grudge about.

How to deal with difficult colleagues remains a challenge for managers as well as coworkers. We often come across people who shirk work; don’t accept responsibility; take credit for someone else’s work, pass on the blame to others and so on.

Managers deal with situations in their own ways with varied degree of successes and failures. If I capture my experiences in one sentence, it would be: relationships work better than authority. You may get much more out of people by virtue of your relationship than by imposing your authority.

The worst thing would be to ignore such people. At times managers develop such a dislike for trouble makers that they start avoiding them, don’t assign them more work and keep the communication to a minimum. This approach is a disaster. It goes against the basic premise that managers should manage people, develop them and get the best out of them.

So, keep engaging with them. Regular communication breaks barriers and strengthens relationships. Keep the conversation on, even if it is not a pleasant one. Allow your views and practices to be questioned.  Remember, a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor!