Executive Coaching Articles

Five Guidelines for Improving Relationships With Difficult Co-Workers

Sir Winston Churchill and Lady Astor, two prominent British politicians, experienced one of the most hostile relationships in Parliament history. Their interactions were constantly filled with conflict, sarcasm, and caustic remarks, each intending to pay the other back in full for past transgressions.

Once during a legislative session, Lady Astor became so upset with one of Churchill’s decisions that she shouted, “Sir Winston, if you were my husband, I’d poison your tea.”

To which Churchill quickly retorted, “Madam, if you were my wife, I’d drink it.”

If your work life sometimes feels like a session of the British parliament, take heart. You can’t change your co-workers, but you can change your point of view about them, and about yourself. Here’s the reality: In today’s “dog-eat-dog” work environment, many people needlessly put each other down instead of building each other up. Positive, uplifting, and encouraging words have been irresponsibly exchanged for negative, piercing, and destructive ones.

Spend the next 30 days incorporating my five guidelines for improving relationships with difficult co-workers and other unflattering individuals into your daily life and I guarantee you’ll experience a dramatic and positive change in your work environment.

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  1. Practice acceptance. See and accept others for who they are. See their strengths and talents, rather than their imperfections and shortcomings. Look beyond physical appearance to find the real person.
  2. Be fully present. When someone comes up with a new idea, listen without judging. Look for the possibility in each new suggestion. Look for ways it can work instead of reasons why it won’t.
  3. Treat your coworkers as equals. Develop a “we’re all in this together” mentality. Instead of trying to outshine everyone around you, cultivate teamwork instead. Remember the old adage, “There is no I in TEAM.”
  4. Change your perspective. Your point of view is valid, but others may have equally valid opinions and ideas. Try viewing things from their perspective, instead of yours. This enables you to better understand who they are, what they think and feel and why they behave as they do.
  5. When all else fails, remember someone who reached out to you. Not every difficult relationship will turn around overnight. In certain situations we can benefit from the advice of R.J. Rehwinkels who said, “The only people you should try to get even with are those who have helped you.”

Evaluate your relationships. Where are they headed? You might need to initiate some difficult conversations to get things back on track. Be the first in your circle of family, friends, or enemies to get even only with those who have helped you. It can make a magical difference.