How to Repair a Stressful Workplace Relationship

It’s estimated the average person will spend one third of their life at work. For you now, that probably looks like at least eight hours per day, five days per week, so you probably want it to be enjoyable. But what happens when a work relationship sours and your workdays become uncomfortable or outright stressful? 

What’s really going on?

Sometimes good relationships go south. Other times, a quality relationship fails to form from the start. It’s helpful to first identify the reason you don’t get along with your colleague, so you can then look at ways to repair your relationship for the sake of your workplace, engagement and overall satisfaction. 

For example, you might be experiencing:

  • poor communication or a change or breakdown in communication
  • a sense of ‘unfairness’ – for example, missing out on a promotion or unfair delegation of tasks
  • your ideas ‘always’ being dismissed.

3 Ways to improve your relationships

Negative workplace experiences and a general sense of dissatisfaction at work can leach into your private life. Afterall, work is where you spend most of your time and energy each week! 

Symptoms of workplace stress can be physical (fatigue, headaches), psychological (anxiety, depression), and behavioural (aggression, mood swings) and are therefore not just left at the office. 

Here are a few ways you can improve your workplace relationships (and your wellbeing):

1. Take a third person point-of-view

Sometimes, when we’re in the moment or we’re feeling a sense of injustice, we can take things personally and misread a situation. Potentially, you may find yourself always responding the same way to a particular behaviour or communication style. 

When you can check in from a third person point-of-view and view the relationship subjectively, you are more able to read and work on your own reactions. You might call this developing your ‘emotional intelligence’, self-awareness and understanding of your own feelings in any given situation.

2. Play an active role 

Does your colleague feel the same way as you? Perhaps their needs and opinions aren’t being heard or respected and they feel the same sense of injustice. What can you do to meet them halfway?

Alternatively, if it’s your voice struggling to be heard, then perhaps you could practice confidently (gradually) speaking up in meetings and conversations. If a lack of airtime is an issue for you, look at ways you can fix the problem – for example, schedule in time with your colleague to talk through your ideas one-on-one without disruptions and distractions. 

3. Keep making an effort in the every day

Even once you’re able to smooth things over and get back on equal and happier footing, you’ll need to continue working on the relationship and your own interpersonal skills. You might consider inviting your colleague out for lunch from time to time, demonstrating acts of kindness and generosity without asking for anything in return, or doing small everyday things to modify your behaviour and interactions to boost your own positive outlook and experience.

Stress less this Stress Down Day

It’s fair to say that not all relationships are created equal and not all relationships are destined to be BFFs. But for the sake of a positive and productive workplace, all relationships should at least be respectful, open and positive.  

Wednesday 24 July is Stress Down Day, a fun and simple initiative to help workplaces reduce stress and raise funds for Lifeline Australia. Why not register your workplace for a fundraising morning tea, and stress less with cake? 


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