Childhood bullying gets a lot of attention these days, but bullying and other bad behavior can be just as destructive in the workplace as on the playground.
Over the years, I’ve seen people with poor social and interpersonal skills unnecessarily make life miserable – not just for themselves, but for everyone else in the workplace. For managers and executives, poor relationships with employees and customers are one of the surest ways to undermine any efforts to create a positive customer experience.
Creating and maintaining work relationships isn’t hard, if you just remember a few simple rules that you probably learned before you were even in your teens.
1. Do unto others…
Or, as my mum would say, “treat others the way you would want to don by”. In business, that means treating fellow employees, customers and others with the courtesy and respect you’d like to receive from them.
2. Offer help without expecting something in return.
If a coworker or associate needs help and you’re in a position to provide it, do it! You’ll feel satisfaction for having helped someone in need, and the help that you gave will likely reap benefits far in the future, as we all remember who our true friends are.
3. Use positive reinforcement.
Studies show that the best way to elicit a particular behavior is to reward it. Criticizing the behavior you don’t like doesn’t work nearly as well, and it can damage your relationships.
In a business context, this means that you should praise a behavior you like: “John, I really appreciate you getting this report to me early and in the right format. Now I have plenty of time to review it before the meeting on Monday.” Offer praise right away, to help link the good feelings to the action that created them. This increases the chance that the good behavior will be repeated.
At the same time, don’t avoid criticism when it’s warranted. If there’s a problem, bring it up – just be sure to focus on the problem you have instead of attacking the individual.
4. Have realistic expectations.
You can’t expect your new employees and newer co-workers to grasp all the company’s rules and procedures right away. Realize that they’ll make mistakes and need time to adjust, and don’t berate them for what they don’t know. Instead, educate them with positive reinforcement and embrace their ideas and experiences by inviting them to suggest better ways of doing things.
In our customer experience consultancy, I always tell my team, “None of us is as clever as all of us.”
5. Honesty is the best policy.
Lying undermines trust. Just don’t do it.
6. Embrace conflict, but make it constructive.
Great minds don’t always think alike. Accept that conflict is a natural part of any relationship, business or personal, and learn productive methods of conflict resolution. Try to focus arguments on the issues, avoid personal attacks, and keep the argument as short as possible. Apologize if you are wrong, and talk about ways to avoid this dispute in the future.
7. Make time to talk.
Take the time to chat with your coworkers and business associates, without any motive other than to see how they’re doing and get to know them better.
8. Just be yourself.
My mum gave me this tip the first time I asked a girl to a dance. It sounded like terrible advice when I was a pimply, awkward adolescent, but she was right. Pretend you’re something you’re not and people will see right through you. Worse, you can get into deep trouble at work if you act like you know more than you do. Just be your authentic self and, like my first dance date, people will like you for who you are.
Do you have other suggestions for improving relationships at work? Please share them in the comments box below.
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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX