By Joyce Weiss
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get along with a certain coworker. Maybe your personalities are just too different, or perhaps your work processes and preferences conflict. Despite this fact, you still have to work together—sometimes very closely—so it is important to establish a relationship of cooperation and respect.
But cooperation and respect can be hard to maintain. The key is to get the other person to agree on this relationship goal and then work together to keep the cooperation and respect strong. Therefore, set up a meeting with the coworker who is troubling you and together answer these seven questions. With the insight you glean from the answers to these questions, you can move toward productive results.
1. What is our main challenge?
You need to pinpoint what specifically keeps you from having a working relationship based on cooperation and respect. Does it have to do with work styles, personalities, ethnicity/cultural differences, etc.? You need to know what you must overcome before you can actually do it.
2. How are we different?
Suppose that you figure out that your conflicting work styles cause the friction. The next step is to identify specifically how your work styles are different. For example, maybe you discover that while you prefer to have email communications, your coworker finds email cold and impersonal and wants face-to-face meetings. At this point, remember not to blame each other for the difference or defend yourself. You want to find how to capitalize on your differences.
3. How are we the same?
Despite your differences, you likely have a few similarities. In fact, at one point in your history together, you probably did one project together—even a small one—well. What worked during that project? The key is for you to build off your similarities to establish cooperation and respect.
4. What opportunities are within our reach?
In other words, if you work together, what can you accomplish together? This question gets you to think positively about the other person so you can have the motivation to work together in a way that fosters cooperation and respect.
5. How can others in the department or company help us?
Remember that you’re not alone. Others in your department or company want you to develop mutual cooperation and respect. Identify who those people are and get their input.
6. How can we communicate with each other better?
To work on your relationship, try spending some time together. This does not mean hanging out together on weekends. It simply means for you to go to lunch together periodically or agree to meet for 20 minutes every Monday to review weekly goals. Do something to get the dialog started.
7. How can we amaze ourselves?
Determine what would be an amazing experience for the two of you working together. Describe it in great detail. Use that vision to guide your future working efforts. Before you know it, you’ll have a solid base of cooperation and respect from which to build.
Joyce Weiss, M.A. CSP is a corporate communication strategist and coach. For the past 30 years, she has perfected patented strategies that have addressed peer bullying, standing out to upper management, career advancement, and resolving conflict. Weiss has been a frequent speaker at ABA’s Annual Meeting and Marketplace. She just launched an online coaching program Communication Skills at Work. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.