I have been on a project, unfortunately in advocating on behalf of my team, I have made a lot of people feel I am not a good team player. The project was very successful and has benefited lots of people; however the relationships are not the same since the completion of this project. It has been about a year and I have apologized for my mistakes, however I am not sure the team would want to work with me or at least I don’t get that feeling. I have learned that relationships are more important to me, however how do I do both, do what is right and maintain relationships? I would love your input? Signed Confrontations, Female, age 40.
Dear Confrontations, relationships and work can be a volatile mix. As a manager with over thirty years of experience on all sides of the teamwork issue, I have some thoughts for you. But first let me congratulate you on looking out for the greater good of your company by doing what is “right.” Here are some thoughts for you to consider.
- As to the past, the fact that you apologized indicates that you recognize that you will do things differently the next time and that you have sensitivity toward the people your actions impacted. This is all good. Some people will have longer memories than others and they will be waiting to see how you perform the next time. That will be your opportunity to prove that you have learned and grown as a person and a team player.
- For the future, you have the opportunity to demonstrate what you have learned. Be proud of the fact that you can do what is right even in the face of resistance and continue to do so. Your further opportunity is to perhaps change the way you interact with others when under stress and in conflict. You can accomplish this by recognizing that a critical human need is one of being understood and appreciated for who we are. No matter how tense a situation becomes, remember this point and communicate accordingly. Keep the issue about the issue and not the people. Use communication skills such as How to Fight Fair, Expressing and Owning Feelings and other techniques we recommend for couples. Yes, these were written for couples but the techniques apply to any relationship. And they work in business. It is often not what you say but how you say it that determines how it will be received.
- In cases of conflict try to move into a Problem Solving mode to engage everyone who is involved in a search for solutions rather than into conflict. Questions and statements such as the following can make a big difference. “How can we work together to solve this problem? I am willing to_____.”
- Consider starting projects with brainstorming sessions for the team to answer questions such as: “What are the project objectives? What are the measures of success for this project? What are our team objectives? What is the right thing to do in this situation?” This activity will help build consensus and explore the issues and opportunities associated with the project.
- Sometimes doing the right thing requires a change in relationships. Management especially have to be careful not to allow friendships get in the way of the greater good of the organization. That is a price to be paid.
- Pick your battles carefully. Fight for what must be won but try to get your team on your side with problem solving methods. Save your ammunition for those things that won’t otherwise be accomplished.
- Conduct yourself in a businesslike and professional manner at all times, practice good communication, be respectful yet confident, demonstrate your ability to get along well with others, and your relationships should improve. Just don’t sacrifice your principles and values.
- Understand that there may be several definitions of what is “right.” Be open to that and invite appropriate discussion.
At the very least, your co-workers should recognize that you have the best interests of the organization in your heart. You are to be commended for that.
Please understand you have free will. This advice is given only in the realm of personal growth and self-help. This is not to be considered a substitute for therapy or professional counseling. We wish you well.