Six Steps For Repairing a Workplace Relationship

My new video showing my keynote speech for the workplace just came out last week. Ironically,the video was delivered to my “inbox” on Labor Day!  I am excited to show it to you. Please go to my Speaking Videos page at

I want to give you a quick preview of just one of the strategies I teach in Relationship Repair for the Workplace.  Here it is – Six steps you can use to repair a workplace relationship.

When people are having problems in a workplace relationship with a boss or a coworker, they can experience various symptoms including

  • Panic symptoms (shortness of breath or heart palpitations)
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Generalized anxiety
  • Obsessive thoughts about the problem
  • Eating disturbances
  • GI problems
  • Tearfulness
  • Avoidance (not wanting to be at work)

I have had many clients over the years come into my office seeking help because they feel helpless and hopeless about a problem with a coworker or boss. In some cases, these problems may not be something that can be repaired.

However, in other cases, I have been able to coach people to finally get the resolution they are seeking (which makes the symptoms go away). Some people have not been able to assertively state a complaint and seek a resolution because they just keep avoiding talking about the problem. Whereas for other people, the complaint came up in a nonconstructive way, so it was not resolved and the conflict escalated to bad feelings and drama.  In both situations, I urge people to follow these steps at the Relationship Repair Counter.  First of all, ask your coworker when would be a good time for you to have a discussion with them.  If your coworker will not agree to have a discussion with you, then you could consider talking with a manager or leader at a higher level in the organization.  Ask them to help facilitate a discussion and a resolution of the problem.

1.  Think about what would resolve the problem before you start the discussion.  Do you want your coworker to stop talking loudly on the phone in their cubicle?  Or would you like your boss to make decisions about your requests for leave more quickly so you can make travel plans? Start by identifying within your own mind what your exact ideal resolution would be.

2.  Start with something positive, and tell your coworker something you appreciate about their work or about your past history working together.

3.  Give your coworker the benefit of the doubt by saying something like, “I know you are great at your job and you probably did not realize that you are creating a problem for me.”  (This reduces defensiveness)

4.  Briefly state your complaint in no more than 2-3 sentences, using an “I statement” and explaining how you feel.

5.  Ask for the resolution you identified earlier in Step 1.

6.  Negotiate or compromise on the resolution if necessary, then say thank you if you get a helpful resolution.

This approach may not always work, but it definitely can set the stage for creating the best opportunity possible for you to have fewer sleepless nights and less drama at work!



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