Turning working relationships around - the fine art of apology
All of us have relationships that don't work well. We might have offended someone, rubbed them up the wrong way, said the wrong things, stepped on someone's toes or make a habit of avoiding certain people. Being able to turn a relationship around or rebuild a relationship is an essential capacity for leaders as is knowing when a relationship has run its course.
How do you turn a relatonship around? There are ways you can reverse direction. Once you have completed justifying to yourself how the relationship breakdown is the other person's fault and they are the ones that miss out by not being involved with you, you might consider
how important is this relationship to you?
If the relationship and the person is important for your work, warming up to taking a fresh approach, and beginning again is possible.
One option is for you is to make a proposal Let's begin again.
Another is to apologise. I made a mistake, or I was wrong, I apologise, lets start over.
A more personal approach( with your ego in the background) might go like this; Our relationship is important to me. I do want us to work together well. I'm sorry to my part in upsetting you.
Lets begin again. What do you think?
One key to building a good working relationship is to ensure the relationship is mutual. You are likely to know the benefits to you of building a relationship with this person. Make an offer which indicates you appreciate the benefits to the other person, of having a good working relationship with you. What might you be able to achieve together? Discover common ground, shared interests and shared outcomes. We are both involved in this area, we both want to empower our staff, and we both want our clients to have the best experience.
When apologies are genuine, they are productive. Genuine apologies touch the heart and enable a new beginning.
Some examples: If you are habitually late for meetings,and you (habitually) apologise, recipients become cynical. They know your apology is insincere, or a social nicety, as you are going to be late again, and again. If you are habitually late for meetings, learn to enter groups and engage in the work without drawing attention away form the work. Everone has a reason for being late. The main message communicated by being late is that someone, or something other than the group you are joining was more important.
I notice when leaders enter groups and apologise, at least two things happen. Firstly, the leader is immediately on the back foot, and secondly, the attention of group me
mbers is drawn away from the work of the group and towards the leader.
Apologies have a social function, they are an acknowledgment expressing regret or asking pardon for a fault or offense. At work, by taking responsibility, leaders shift the function of an apology to a work function. If an apology means work is progressed then yes, apologise. When leaders apologise to be 'polite' or have others think positively of them, they are likely to be mistaken. When leaders genuinely apologise because they value the person, and/or the relationship, the real work begins.
If you are thinking of reassessing some of your working relationships to be more productive, consult Diana
or enrol in Executive Presence