We’re suffering from division on our team. Certain employees aren’t on speaking terms with others, depending on the day. It’s stressing me out.
Thanks for writing. I’m sorry you’re dealing with dysfunction. You’re not alone. It’s wishful thinking to believe we can completely avoid workplace cliques, because humans are social, political, emotional creatures. Most of us wish for a harmony. Others enjoy drama and intentionally create it – a frequent and unpleasant challenge to face in my line of work. The good news is that you have power to improve your environment.
Start by examining your own behavior. There will always be some who like us and others who don’t. Each of us has most and least-preferred co-workers. Navigating communication with colleagues we don’t personally enjoy is important. The more skilled you become at this, the more positive impact to your career and the lower your stress level.
Four types of power are worth your time to understand and expand. Personal power (how interested in others are you?), referent power (how deep and wide is your network?), knowledge power (how sharp is your subject matter expertise?) and legitimate power (how much decision-making authority do you possess?)
There’s a key concept of power: in and out groups. Make a list of people in your professional life for your eyes only. These individuals fall into one of two groups. Out group gets less attention, less eye contact, less time, less genuine praise, less open-ended questions (“What do you think about this idea?”) and less conversation from you. Don’t worry about how this came to be, just become aware. Choose a few out group colleagues and take steps to improve your relationship with them, using the definition above. For example, one coaching client in higher education is expanding his circle of praise. Another, from the medical field, sets aside 10 minutes a day to inquire if others need anything. In the manufacturing sector, a client is inviting quieter employees to offer opinions in meetings. Begin. You risk rejection, and that’s OK.
Ask yourself: What am I currently known for as a businessperson, both positive and negative?
How do you want to be known? If you could redesign your reputation, which positive elements would you keep and which would you discard?
In a training event recently, 7 top leaders from one organization shared aloud what they believe to be the highlights and lowlights of their teams’ reputations. They gave courageous, diplomatic feedback to one another about how each team was viewed within the organization. Nobody expected their team to have a perfect reputation. Every leader knew how their team shines and that they still had work to do. If everyone cared as much about their impact on others, this would be a better world. Don’t give up on your situation. Strive to make a difference in every way you can.
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