Repairing a Working Relationship With a Colleague
Working in the marketing department of a brokerage firm, you are having a great year. One reason is that you helped launch a weekly video blog that goes to all clients, and you are the on-camera host.
You share scriptwriting with Maya, your numbers guru in the research department. Her contributions are a big part of the project’s success. Maya has kidded you at times, saying, “What are you going to do when I become a vice-president and won’t have time for your blog?”
Trouble in Paradise
The blog recently won an industry award. Management decided that, as the on-air talent, you alone should accept the award for the company. Of course, you recognized Maya in your comments.
Still, she hasn’t taken it well. Your working relationship is frosty now. You now have to prompt her for her data, and she doesn’t readily discuss the blog’s topics like she used to.
How to Proceed?
You know Maya doesn’t get the recognition she should, but you try. How can you approach your sulking colleague to repair your working relationship? What must you do to have a successful Q4 meeting about working together in the future?
Obviously, if Maya were behaving in her best interest, she wouldn’t need to be reminded that she could be jeopardizing her job by behaving in a Q1 indignant and/or Q2 resentful way. That behavior isn’t likely to change when Maya hears an implied threat to her status at the company. Also, we all may want to tell someone, in essence, to “Grow up!” at times. But, rather than being an effective way to get someone else back to working productively again, that usually just makes us feel better — it doesn't do much for the other person. Your attempt has to appeal more to what Maya is feeling.
This is the best course of action. You need to make a sincere effort to repair this relationship by using your Q4 collaborative skills to plan a conversation around meeting Maya’s personal needs. Acknowledge her contribution to the video blog’s success, and help her realize the benefit of continuing to work together successfully.
Craft the meeting’s first step carefully. In sizing up Maya, you can see that she has strong ego needs. Raise her receptivity to the conversation by being clear that you recognize and applaud her efforts. Then, emphasize benefits to her personally. In this case, show her that by keeping up the quality of the blog, Maya has an opportunity to stand out in ways that wouldn’t be possible if she weren’t on the project.
In Step 2, probe and encourage Maya to air her disappointment and frustrations. Don’t go Q3 and try to paper over her pain. Rather, use reflective statements to show her that you understand. Often, the very act of letting the other person air emotions will raise receptivity, so that together, you can plan how the two of you will work more comfortably and productively.
You can’t impose a plan, though. If receptivity has been raised, Maya should be willing to contribute ideas for how to work together going forward. The action plan should include how Maya can put this conflict behind her and go back to being the valuable contributor she has been.
This impulse is misguided in many ways. Q4 leadership skills help us to become more effective in dealing with those around us — because on the job, we seldom get to pick the people we work with. You shouldn’t give up on trying to make a go of effectively working together. Besides, it’s not your call. If you suggest to your boss that you’d like Maya off the project, and he/she says, “That’s not going to happen. It’s your job to make it work!”, how would you respond? (And by the way, your boss is right — it is your job to make it work.)