Colleague relationships are a funny thing. They are complex and multi-layered – we are brought together by a common goal, and we work together to achieve that common goal; and we spend a lot of time together in doing so. On the other hand, we also bring very different personalities, communication styles, work styles and personal preferences. Spending so much time together can mean alliances and friendships – sometimes we may find ourselves telling our colleagues things we don’t even tell our closest friends, but it can also mean competition and rivalry.
In addition to this, people come and go from the workplace, goals shift, power dynamics shift, and personal circumstances change. This means colleague relationships have this fluidity that may lead to unpredictability.
Given all of the above, there are bound to be conflicts, misunderstandings, and dynamics that can prove challenging to manage. If left unaddressed, these dynamics can have a significant impact on:
The first step in managing difficult workplace dynamics is to recognize that they exist. Name it, own it. Pay attention to the signals and behaviors of your colleagues and try to identify any patterns from both sides that may be causing tension or conflict.
Effective communication is crucial in managing difficult workplace dynamics. It is essential to create an environment where all parties feel comfortable expressing their concerns and ideas openly and honestly. First consider appropriate channels to have this communication. Can it be addressed one to one? Or does it need to be raised with other parties? Encourage dialogue and active listening to make sure everyone has a chance to be heard. Alongside this, it is important to avoid making assumptions and judgements, and seek clarification on interpretations when necessary.
When dealing with difficult workplace dynamics, it can be helpful to focus on common goals. Identify the shared objectives of the team or organization and brainstorm how you can work together to achieve them. Collaboration and teamwork are key here and celebrate successes along the way. By focusing on what everyone can agree on, you can build momentum and positive energy.
It is essential to set clear expectations and boundaries when managing difficult workplace dynamics. Establish guidelines for behavior, communication, and collaboration that everyone can follow. Make sure everyone understands their role and responsibilities and provide regular feedback to ensure everyone is on the same page.
If workplace dynamics prove difficult to manage, it may be necessary to seek outside help. This could be in the form of mediation, coaching, or counseling. Bringing in an objective third party can provide a fresh perspective and help everyone work through their issues constructively.
Managing difficult workplace dynamics can be challenging, but there are ways to manage them effectively. It is an ongoing process, so it will require patience, persistence, and commitment to building a positive and collaborative workplace culture.
Written by: Dr Gurveen Ranger
Clinical Psychologist at Sage Clinics