Managing relations at work

OFTEN too many managers robotically follow rules instead of making decisions with their heads and hearts. According to the latest CMI research, rules, bureaucracy and targets have pushed many a manager to the edge. This has resulted in many of these managers completely switching off their natural sense of caring for others. The resultant consequence of such an approach has been, a crisis of business ethics, disengaged employees, and a total collapse of trust at the work place.

Robert Mandeya

You have a tonne of experience with relationships don’t you. Think about it for a moment. We start learning about relationships the time we recognise a smile means happy and a harsh voice means anger. As we grow, we develop myriads of relationships and as an adult we have made some pretty hard and fast rules about “types” of people and how we will interact with them. But the types of relationships at work are complex and more difficult to manage because you can not completely rely on your rules alone and succeed. At the workplace you have to interact with people from diverse backgrounds; superiors, peers, subordinates, vendors and clients and each have their own set of “rules” that you are going to have to deal with. Check out these tips to better understand those “rules” and use them to effectively manage your career. Here are some few tips to better navigate this “terrain”.


Know yourself
For most of our lives we simply react to emotion and we do not spend any time analysing why we feel the way we do. If we are mad, frustrated, happy, sad or indifferent we simply react to it the way we learned how. Take some time to do some introspection and understand why you feel the way you do. What makes you feel frustrated, what buttons do people push to get you upset and why, what really drives your sense of pride. Understanding these underlying causes will help you identify them in others and give you a heads up in relationships.

You can not be in control
How many times have you been in a position where you told yourself “If they had just see it my way everything would be fine.” The problem of course is that you can not force them to “see it your way.” You can not control the relationships you encounter at work. The only person you can change is yourself. Do not waste energy, or burn whatever relationship capital that you have, trying to change people to your point of view.

You can be in charge
Being in charge is different than being in control. Being in charge means you accept the situation for what it is and you understand the reality even if it is not what you want. Once you understand the issues, you can work on a solution that you can work around and mitigate the conflict. You know you are in charge when you are confident that you have several things you can try to work through an issue without having to “control” the other parties.

Understand the other person
Old adages like “know your enemy” and “walk a mile in his moccasins” are pertinent to effective management of workplace relationships.

Understand who you are talking to. Is there a hidden agenda? Is it a person accustomed to always getting their way? Or is it someone who always expects disappointments? Knowing where they are coming from allows you to better set expectations and relations.

Change your attitude
Our culture is big on self criticism. We truly are a nation of “the glass is half empty” believers. If you carry that attitude as a manager you can expect that those you interact with will also adopt that approach. Finding the positive, even if it is nothing more than a willingness to recognise and work out a negative situation, develops a different and more productive attitude in those that you work with. Having a positive attitude backed up with a sincere interest in the concerns of others will distinguish you as a leader.

Be a problem solver
When there is a relationship problem, start working on a solution right away. Do not procrastinate as the issue will only become larger and more complex. Not only is this a solid management principal, it also lends you credibility as a manager who is concerned and willing to work to resolve issues.

Give more than expected
This does not mean if you work harder it simply means you take the time to communicate to others, you understand them. Recognising achievement in others, soliciting ideas and providing support are all behaviours that are, unfortunately, not all that common in the workplace. This behaviour changes the dynamics of the typical relationship and builds respect and loyalty.

It all starts with you adopting a philosophy that says the way to succeed is to serve. Understanding others and dealing with their emotions and prejudices honestly is the quickest way to build a team and establish a culture of trust and respect. You are not forcing change; you are providing a basis for them to change on their own accord.

Robert Mandeya is a senior executive training consultant and communication in management advisor, a personal coach in leadership and professional development with the Institute of Leadership Research and Development. You can contact him on,