Finding the right position is only one piece of the puzzle that leads to job satisfaction. Have you ever heard someone say, “I’d like my work if it weren’t for the people I work with”? One of the greatest challenges in the workplace is getting along with other people. It hardly matters if someone is the best and brightest at what he does if he creates dissension in the office. Regardless of whether we’re hired to lead or be led, it is the ability to establish functional and healthy workplace relationships that can make or break our success and job satisfaction.
Supervisors have a particular responsibility to create a satisfying and productive atmosphere that encourages others to reach their full potential. To inspire confidence and loyalty from others, a supervisor must lead by example. If he values punctuality, he should be punctual. If he insists on respectful behavior, he should demonstrate it in his treatment of others. If he wants to create a spirit of teamwork, he should do his best to keep workers informed of developments that could affect their departments. In other words, a supervisor should practice the Golden Rule in order to create an environment where he himself would want to work.
Relationships among peers can be some of the most competitive and challenging in the workplace. Balance and discretion should be exercised in these associations. Some individuals feel that the only important relationships are with their supervisors. This attitude overlooks both the importance of teamwork and the obvious benefit of building friendships, which in some cases last a lifetime. Peers can constitute a valuable network of shared information and can generate an atmosphere of cooperation. When we build goodwill among our coworkers, we contribute to our own feelings of well-being on the job and the well-being of our coworkers as well.
Peers often work in close proximity, so respecting the privacy of others is essential to good working relationships. The primary offender of this unwritten rule is gossip. It has been said that gossips make mountains out of molehills by adding more dirt. Nothing more thoroughly undermines productivity and morale. “A gossip betrays a confidence; avoid a man who talks too much.” (Prov. 20:19). Good advice. No one is safe from a chronic gossip, and nothing reveals a person’s character more completely than what he or she says.
When virtually every personality type is thrown together to accomplish a common goal, conflicts are inevitable. But when we are mindful of our own behavior and determined to give an honest day’s work for pay, we have already greatly minimized our chances for conflict. It’s hard to find fault with this kind of work ethic. If conflicts do arise, they should be handled carefully. Dealing with a conflict quickly at its source is usually the wisest approach. If handled one-on-one it’s far less disruptive to the workplace. Confronting interpersonal problems without becoming defensive can really put us to the test. It helps to remember that people generally defend their weaknesses, not their strengths.
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.
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