A lot of attention is given to healthy romantic or friend relationships, but the same concept is rarely applied to work relationships. However, it’s a well-known fact that work relationships can become toxic and unhealthy over time.
By KEVIN DEVOTO
Work relationships rely a lot on power balances, so understanding power balances and how to keep them level is key to having healthy work relationships. Here are a few ways you can do this.
1. Earning Respect
In power-balanced relationships, both individuals are showing mutual respect during all interactions. This can be a tough thing to achieve at work, especially when one person is in a leadership or managerial position over another. If you’re in this position, the best way to show your respect and earn it from your employees is to be open to ideas and by admitting you’re wrong. Rather than pretending to know what it is, at your next meeting just ask “what is hybrid cloud?”
Listening carefully to others and giving them a platform to talk will help them feel that their ideas are respected, and you’ll earn theirs by being humble and open to correction. There should be mutual respect for each other’s roles, and you should acknowledge the difficulty of another person’s job and their need to do it well.
2. Learning to Listen
This step can be really tough if you’re someone who understands what needs to be done and just wants to get it done. It can be hard not to steamroll other people when you feel you have a solution or a better way to accomplish something. But frequently, forging healthy relationships with coworkers is about being patient and waiting until your opinion has been called for.
New employees often fall into a trap of pointing out what everyone is doing wrong because it seems obvious to them. But this often indicates their own failure to see the complexity of the issue. Being patient can help you to learn the full picture before jumping in with your own ideas.
3. Open Communication
Boasting about an open-door policy is common for management and higher-ups in most companies. They’ll tell employees they can come to talk to them about anything at all, but often there are hidden consequences for employees who actually take them up on the offer. If you truly want to establish a power balance in the workplace, it’s important to make this type of communication possible.
You can create policies that protect employees who want to discuss issues or make suggestions, or you can have an anonymous forum for people to freely say whatever is on their minds. It’s easy to state that you’re always available for questions or you’re willing to discuss anything, but it’s harder to actually carry that out in practice.
4. Tipping the Balance
If you’re an employee hoping to rise in the ranks of your business, it’s important to understand how to start skewing the power balance in your favor. This doesn’t mean corporate sabotage or lacing your manager’s drinks with laxatives. It’s more about being in the right position to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. For instance, it’s going to be hard to pursue promotions if you have an extremely busy home life or are financially unstable.
In order to put yourself in this position, you’ll need to have money in the bank, time to spare, and a special skill to offer. This puts you in the right place in life to negotiate for promotions or raises, and be prepared to walk out if the offer is refused. Getting ahead in business takes more than guts, it takes strategy and an understanding of how to upset the power balances.
Many times it can seem like employees and employers are at war with one another, constantly trying to outmaneuver each other. Employers hold the cards and employees are at their mercy. But in reality, offices that achieve power-balanced relationships will have much happier employees and higher retention. Plus, you’ll learn valuable life skills that can be applied anywhere.