Have a Workplace Adversary? You Can Turn it Around – Almost Always.

| November 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

Luke had been doing a lot of soul searching lately. It had not occurred to him that he was actually contributing to the adversarial relationship that had developed with his once supporter, Alex. As he thU007V1XDconsidered his promotion several months ago and how he had handled the transition to the new role he winced at his many missteps. He knew that he would need to come clean in his meeting with Jane, the Vice President of the Department. Luke had been incredibly fortunate to have Jane as a mentor. She was fair but firm. She understood the power of relationships and had been very generous in sharing her knowledge and experiences. He had learned so much from her and the book authored by Morag Barrett Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships which had provided the platform for their discussions.

Luke looked down at his notes – a list of ways he had contributed to this now very dysfunctional relationship with Alex.

1. Didn’t talk to Alex when the promotion was announced. We were both up for the new position and I was worried how Alex might react.

2. First project team meeting I was nervous and a bit intense. I dismissed a comment by Alex because I felt like he was trying to take over.

3. I know Alex is an extravert and tends to think out loud. I cut him off twice in an attempt to have others more involved in the conversation.

4. I began to consciously avoid Alex. When we did meet  I felt my stomach tighten and immediately went into a defensive mode.

Based on the Relationship Map, the relationship with Alex is critical to the success of the project. I had not given the importance of Alex’s involvement the credit it deserved.

After listening to Luke, Jane said, “Well you certainly have your work cut out if you’re going to try and change your relationship with Alex. Have you thought about developing a plan?” Luke had in fact worked on a plan. The relationship with Alex was to critical to just wing it. A point made in Cultivate. “Here are the steps I’ve outlined:

  • Using the Four Strategies for Speaking Up, I focused on Baggage. I plan on asking Alex for a Baggage Conversation. I’ll be sure to ask for a time that is good for him and that would be uninterrupted. First, I owe Alex an apology. Actually I owe him several apologies. I will put it on the table that I should have had a conversation with him as soon as the promotion was announced. Trust me these apologies are sincere. The information on emotional intelligence was very helpful in understanding the triggers that were being set off and my poor managing of my emotions.
  • Second, Alex and I need to have a conversation regarding how we engage each other, recognizing our differences in style. This conversation can only happen if we openly deal with the baggage we are both bringing to the table. I am hoping that we each have memories of our past ‘good’ relationship to help us give each other a bit of slack.
  • I need to reiterate with Alex the importance of his contributions and our shared goal of having this project be a huge success.
  • Alex and I need to agree to having Adjust Conversations – a commitment to each other that when we are violating our agreements around engagement, we will raise the issue in a private meeting dedicate ourselves to strengthening our relationship.”

Luke put down his notebook and expectantly looked at Jane who was silent .  She took a deep breath and said, “Luke I am impressed with the work and thought that you’ve demonstrated in your plan. What I am particularly pleased with is your candid recognition of your part in this adversarial relationship with Alex.  Self-reflection is a critical skill for any manager. You need to know who you are, how you react to perceived threats and how to manage your responses more effectively. I agree that a good place to start with Alex is a Baggage Conversation.  Great job Luke!  I look forward to hearing how your relationship with Alex gets back on track.”

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About the Author ()

Julia Hill-Nichols, SPHR, is the founder of LeadersCove, LLC. With over 30 years experience in operations and human capital management, Julia is gifted in the art and science of bridging strategic imperatives and a company’s human capabilities—executing for success, meeting bottom-line objectives and enlivening the people who are the organization’s lifeblood.

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