Hopefully, we’re all now fully settled into the new year and have begun to learn to write “2020” instead of “2019” on important documents. I’ll figure this out in about September, I think.
As I’ve expressed many times before in these newsletters, I’m not a huge fan of the whole “new year, new me” mindset that people take up for two weeks and then abandon to return to their old ways.
That said, I do think that using the turning of the calendar as a yearly benchmark in my life is a good idea. What did I accomplish last year? What do I want to accomplish this year? Who did I wrong last year, and who am I holding a grudge against for wronging me?
This shouldn’t be news to anyone in I’ve worked with, but I’m not an emotionally-driven person. I leave holding grudges and remembering wrongs to my Director of Operations, but I do like the idea of using this benchmark to right wrongs that I’ve committed to other people (intentionally or not).
So, that’s what we’re going to talk about today: professional relationships and how to get them back on track when they’re led astray.
We all have it happen: we argue with someone on something we perhaps will never come to a middle ground on, and sometimes relationships wither.
Sometimes, this is necessary. We all grow, and sometimes that means we grow apart from those we are around often. Coworkers, mentors, etc.
But, if it’s a professional relationship, you have only three options to deal with this: suffer being around/working with someone you can’t stand anymore, quit your job to get away from them, or bury the hatchet.
Working closely with someone you have a strong, negative emotional connection with is not a good long-term solution. It adds stress and performance tends to suffer in these situations. If they’re in another part of the company and you’re not forced to interact with them all the time? Sure, it’s probably okay, but this article isn’t really about those people.
It’s about the people you see and interact with every day.
Quitting your job is certainly an option if the differences are irreconcilable or it starts to affect your production.
But even as someone that helps people every day with moving to their next career step, that’s a big, big change to make because of some friction with a colleague. Changing jobs often means moving, uprooting your family, learning new company systems and new cities. Sometimes it means a pay cut (though, it can obviously mean the opposite as well). It’s certainly do-able, but it’s not convenient, and the grass isn’t always as much greener as it seems.
Finally, you can work to bury the hatchet or move on.
You all know I’m not a touchy-feely guy that cares how others are feeling most of the time, but the easiest way to do this is to follow the advice I’ve given 100 times before in this newsletter: communicate.
Be open and honest with your coworker. It is crucial to approach the conversation from a level-headed, rational place (emotions have their place, but they won’t help you when trying to mend fences and move forward,) but take a breath and have the conversation. Work it out. You might find that you and your coworker are not as far apart on the issue as you initially thought.
If it’s a situation where you go back and forth for a long time and eventually must agree to disagree on something to keep the peace, that’s okay! How boring would life be if we agreed with everyone we met on every topic? But in most cases, this doesn’t mean that you have to talk about that topic at work. Agree to leave it outside those front doors and be professional with one another.
And if, at the end of the day, you can’t even come to that “agree to disagree” middle ground, it’s time to look internally for a solution. Is their contrary opinion or action one that affects you directly, or do you just find it objectionable? Is it that you want that person to act a certain way, or be a different version of themselves, even though everything they’ve shown you is to the contrary?
If that’s the case, it reminds me of a quote that one of my teammates uses quite often from Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Maybe that person is simply not who you want them to be.
So, you can burn all of your intellectual and emotional calories being frustrated about that, or you can move on. Sometimes the answer is just to make peace with yourself, and not give others the power to control your emotions.
So, sure, a bad boss, or a big disagreement or wrong by a coworker that you have to interact with every day may lead you to look for greener pastures elsewhere, or just suffer and be miserable. Or you can bury the hatchet, even if that’s a solo endeavor, and move forward.