I recently escorted my wife to her high school reunion in New York City. That sentimental journey was fun and it reminded me of the lifelong friendships we both made at St. John’s University (Go, Red Storm!!), where we met. Relationships don’t adhere to Newton’s Law, though–once you put a relationship in motion it doesn’t necessarily stay in motion. You have to work on maintaining it. Maintaining a nurturing friendship requires effort. And while some relationships still fizzle out, the good ones–the important ones, will endure.
Professional relationships are similar but can be even more challenging. Often we find ourselves working with people we wouldn’t normally choose as friends. Or working with friends we don’t want as co-workers. Situations like these, however, offer us chances to grow in myriad ways as we test our leadership skills—and it’s invariably a test we need to pass!
Negative individuals draw off our positive energy like magnets! And negativity is as infectious as laughter–it can spread and blight the entire workplace. But employees with practiced negativity can still be helped. Rather than focusing on the glass-half-empty segment of a fellow employee’s personality, focus on the positive. Sometimes you have to dig a deep well to discover a positive bit of consciousness, but it is there!
Once you find it, look for ways to make what is unique about them useful. Perhaps it’s their attention to detail and thoroughness. Perhaps it’s their unflagging “foresight” that resembles, on a rainy Monday morning, an incipient paranoia! Or utilize an employee’s creativity rather than criticizing their lack of structured planning. Someone may be too loud for your liking, but their positive attitude and strong personality can be used, if focused on a project, to raise morale.
Working relationships can become strained for all kinds of reasons. However, remember that you never know when and under what circumstances you’ll come upon that person again, so treat them with dignity and respect. My daughter often tells her children “Never burn bridges.” That is extremely wise of her. In fact, one of the highlights of my professional career was hiring the man who inspired me to become a pharmaceutical attorney. He gave a speech to my college class that resonated with me, and I thought, “This is a man I want to know.” He and I worked diligently all those years to keep our bridge in good repair. In fact he came to work with me, so that I was blessed to call him friend until his passing.
When you choose this challenging yet nurturing path for yourself vis à vis your professional relationships, you are choosing to show true humanity at work. In addition, you are creating a better workplace for yourself and the people you work with. That positive energy flowing through the office space goes on, ultimately, to create a more productive and successful organization.