Everyone has issues with people at work that make them angry, dissatisfied, annoyed or distracted. A boss that doesn’t or provide clear expectations or appreciation. Work can be a nightmare when relationships are in trouble. Equally, there are pleasant teams where people are kind, respectful and cheerfully collude with ideas that are ultimately not great for the business. The sails are only at half-mast but it’s okay, everyone is so lovely.
So why would it matter if I learned how to give fantastic feedback, or how to take it? Nothing will change if I tell my boss what I’m really struggling with, right? What does any of this matter to business? Great relationships at work have an indelible effect on the bottom line. If you’re lucky enough to have had a brilliant line manager or be in a high performing team, you know what I mean. Take a look at what was unique about those relationships. We tend to think they happen by chance. Personal chemistry does have something to do with it but that isn’t the whole story. How tethered people are to the values and vision has a direct link to success.
Game changing conversations
Take the example of Zappos, a hugely successful online apparel and shoe retailer in the US. They take their relationship with their employees seriously by having 10 values they hire and fire by. Two rounds of interviews take place, one for skills and another for culture fit. Every employee receives the same five-week induction that has a heavy focus on company philosophy. Upon completion, each new recruit is offered a $2000 leaving fee if they’re not fully aligned to the company culture. Zappos grossed more than $1 billion in 2008 and is one of the top companies to work for, according to Forbes Magazine.
The great secret is that you can learn huge amounts about your values, reactions, effectiveness and your deepest intentions through your colleagues. You spend almost as much time with them as your loved ones and with the right attitude, some creative tools and patience you can learn to see yourself better through their eyes.
When you get relationships really working – full of trust, openness, creative challenge, Olympic gold listening – you can have the awkward conversation you thought you couldn’t have, share the audacious business idea that you haven’t been able to speak aloud, give game-changing feedback to a colleague or spark new ideas.
Open up dialogue - feedback truisms
People often have a desire to clear the air but don't because they aren't sure how to. When you need to say something, say it. Don’t 'bottle it up'. It could be that you’re holding onto wrong assumptions if words have been misinterpreted or landed the wrong way. The mark of a high-performing team is being able to give and receive feedback.
- It is a dish best served fresh. Don’t wait six months until a project or appraisal review to tell someone what didn't work for you or how you're feeling. Address any concerns you have immediately.
- Use good intent. Check to make sure that you are offering the feedback for the purposes of clearing an issue, not persecuting a colleague.
- Great relationships at work thrive on positive feedback as well as challenging feedback. Use motivational as well as developmental feedback.
If the conflict is deeper, try finding a neutral person within the organisation to mediate. Approach someone in HR or a trusted colleague. Make sure it is someone who can be truly objective and has experience in mediation.
A coach can also be a huge asset in managing conflict. A coach can help provide a safe space to clear misunderstandings and create alignment between team members. The big surprise is that a conflict handled well can draw a deeper connection between people, bolster performance and build an open, trusting culture.