Do your work relationships haunt you?

I was recently in a party where a woman leader (who heads an international firm) said that "at this stage, one wants to work with good people and do good work...not get stuck with office politics"

That got me thinking about "good people" and their aversion to "office politics"...but in this entire reflection, I kept landing back on stakeholder relationships and how a lot of our joy at work depends upon how we manage these.

I remember a time when in a feedback session, my team member asked me if I was trying to get her to leave the organization. Whoa! I was too shocked for words. On deeper probing, I got to know that the one-line email reminders I sent her to check status on tasks were being misconstrued as documentation that I was creating to get her kicked out! And all this while, I thought I was being super considerate by not interrupting her work-flow with unsolicited phone calls or walk-ins. It was a wake up call for me and I realised that my style of working was determined by my own preferences without considering hers. What a lesson!

There was another person, an important colleague in another department. He used to have a lot of insider information, but he never spoke up in any meeting. He was labelled “difficult” and “secretive” by almost everyone, but he did not want to publicly divulge issues and create problems for others. My team would go meet him and get information over a cup of tea. He was our go-to person and always helped us to figure out where things were stuck and how they could be streamlined.

Ultimately, in all these years, here is what I have learned about work relationships:

1. It is better to manage relationships rather than let things happen by default. People form perceptions, come what may and they may not always be in your favour. So the best thing is to be aware, to make conscious choices and not get surprised.

2. Regular check-ins with your stakeholders are helpful to arrive at agreed upon ways of working. When you consider other people’s work preferences besides your own, they feel valued and cared for. Respect given is respect received.

3. How you say is more important than What you say in the corporate world. And it is a skill that can be learned and practiced. Being emotionally intelligent and communicating in an honest, direct AND caring way works wonders to build trust and authentically warm relationships.

Inability to do the above leaves us vulnerable to being shadowed/ taken for granted/ misunderstood and hit suddenly by the much maligned "office politics". Isn’t it better to be proactive than be haunted? You decide!


If you are a senior woman leader, eager to work on making your relationships more productive at the workplace, you may want to register for the upcoming one-day workshop “Me & We” on 31st May, 2019 at The Woods, Gurgaon. Please write to us as to know more or register.

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