A Harvard Business Review ‘Management tip of the day’ recommended the prioritisation of working and spending time with colleagues that help one to feel fulfilled and to minimise interactions with colleagues one finds depleting. Essentially the article was a call to action to invest in the ‘right relationships’.
I fully agree with the focus on investing in the ‘right relationships’ but perhaps this term firstly needs to be defined. If you happen to be a one person team or a sole trader/consultant then investing in relationships that contribute to your sense of fulfilment and satisfaction seems perfectly reasonable. But what if you manage a team or you belong to a team and some of the people you have to interact with at work do draw down on your energy? Should you start to minimse your interactions with them and increase your interactions with the team members you feel more comfortable with?
If we all did this, the team would become fragmented. People would be feeling excluded, not in favour, of less importance and value to the team.
The ‘right relationships’ are the relationships you have with every direct report or every colleague in your team.
So how can you manage to spend time with every team member when, with some of them, you do feel uncomfortable? To do this would go against our natural and often unconscious tendency to want to interact with them less frequently.
I offer two main strategies for your consideration.
Learn to respect and value difference. Each of us have our own preference for how we work and communicate and this has a lot to do with our personality, and individual past experiences. When we seek to understand difference we can learn how to embrace it to gain best outcomes for all involved. Understanding difference allows us to modify our work and communication styles to better match that of our colleague, creating less tension and building rapport between you.
Learn to manage and minimise your emotional investment in a situation. To prevent emotional fatigue, we tend to equate minimising emotional investment with minimising the time and attention we pay to a colleague. This practice only distances people and damages relationships. Being able to manage your emotional energy while still giving time, empathy, attention and respect to your colleague is possible. This is the key to building trust and collaborative relationships which underpin successful team cohesion and high levels of individual and team performance.