The quality of interaction between employees as well as employees and their superiors has a large impact on the kind of environment fostered within the workplace.

If people ‘feel good’ about communicating with each other, this will result in more trusting, more engagement and more openness in the workplace, leading to cooperative and productive working relationships.

If the reverse occurs, employees will be hostile and closed up against each other, leading to strained relations enshrouded in unhealthy competition and suspicion. These changes in behavior can be counterproductive – employees guard information that should be shared, interpret each other’s actions cynically and work hard to protect themselves and their jobs first.

The challenge today is to change conversations in such a way that unhealthy fear and defensiveness is not triggered within employees, and instead open communication, debate and discussion is fostered. To do this, it is important to promote open conversations and set up healthy ‘rules of engagement’ that lead to intelligent conversations. The following are seven steps to achieve this end:

  1. It’s not about being right all the time

Wanting to always be right effectively prevents others from contributing to the discussion. It causes strife within teams and makes a person look like the enemy. As an alternative, lean in and listen to the other person’s point of view, as well as the invaluable opportunity to work through various options to come up with a workable solution.

  1. Listen for connection

Do not listen simply to wait until it is your turn to speak again, so that you can push your views onto other people. Listening to understand and connect allows you to gain fresh insights and receive new information that can be used to improve relationship and performance.

  1. Take time to communicate expectations

For people that will be working closely it may be helpful to formally communicate expectations to avoid later conflict. To start, have a sit-down meeting in which both parties can express what they need from each other as well as what they intend to give to each other. Twenty minutes of your time could actually save you hours in conflict resolution later on, and set the pace for a successful working relationship. Use of salesforce can help achieve this.

  1. Manage expectations by reaching out

If you are going to be working closely with someone, it is important to reach out to him or her and let him or her know that you would like to learn how to work with him or her. Invite them to a discussion where you can develop mutual ‘Rules of engagement’ that will govern your working relationship. Establish guidelines for the most anticipated circumstances, as well as possible conflict resolution mechanisms.

  1. Research

Find out as much as you can about infringing on a person’s privacy. Let them know that you want to know more about them, whether in a formal or informal setting. In turn, open yourself up to be known, permitting others to open themselves up to you.

  1. Refer

From the rules of engagement developed above, foster your working relationship. Stick to the stipulations you both agreed upon. Should you meet new circumstances, feel free to sit down and redraft what’s not working as well as add to it. Expectations are always changing; being open about it allows the trust to remain unbroken and communication lines to stay healthy. 


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