Over the years I have been both blessed and stressed by partnerships in the workplace. Like family, we often do not get the option of choosing our colleagues, and sometimes — eventually — must make changes and choices to avoid having to deal with them any longer.
One might think that this is the beauty of being an entrepreneur or a remote worker; unfortunately, this is not the case. Like it or not, there are some relationships you cannot avoid, and professional relationships are one of them.
While the dynamic of relationships between colleagues may be different, the problem is the same: incompatibility, betrayal, and greed are just a sampling of the negative behaviors preventing healthy working relationships.
But there are actions you can take to promote good relations as you protect yourself from those you cannot completely avoid during the workweek:
- Look for partnerships that complement (not compete) with your core values: if you want to establish a nonprofit that funnels most of its revenue to its causes and not into executive pockets, but your business partner wants to monetize even the toilet paper to fund her personal travel ambitions, run (don’t walk) to the nearest exit. You are not compatible.
- Avoid self-inflated blowhards who tear others down: if someone repeatedly talks trash about good people, rest assured they will, eventually, place you atop of dumpster as they light it on fire. Just because they aren’t negatively discussing you today doesn’t mean you are exempt from their crosshairs. Limit or eliminate the time you spend with these types because sooner or later, you will be the target of their rhetoric. Can’t avoid them altogether? For every conversation, send a recap email of what was discussed, decided, and assigned. Do your best to limit the amount of time spent alone with them.
- Replace them with people of integrity even if it costs you more: This is a tough one, I know. Sometimes, manipulative people maintain their power over you for various reasons: 1) they know your options are limited 2) they’ve been in place for a long time and have dominion over their position due to knowledge or seniority, or 3) it will cost you more to replace them. Whether a supplier, an employee, or a business partner, anyone who costs you in stress, anxiety or sleep is not worth the price you pay. Replace them, even if it costs you more in the short term to do so. You will eventually recoup your losses (including lost shuteye).
- Take personal (me) timeouts: As business owners and remote workers, we often feel the need to over-invest our time and energy to protect our revenue stream and visibility. But reducing your personal time for health and well-being makes you vulnerable to those who aim to take advantage. Schedule regular intervals of rest, relaxation, recreation, and recovery to stay mentally and physically ready to take on those who take too much.
- Stand up for yourself: In this age of political correctness and politeness, many believe they can easily get away with their antics because, wait for it, it would be impolite for their victims to call them on their B.S. Let me realign that for you; ahem. B***SH*T. You can politely and firmly tell someone to get off your back without losing control or jeopardizing your own values and integrity. Need some help? Reach out to your favorite Texan (um, that’s me) for tips on how to use “bless your heart” at the end of every recant giving the offending party a piece of your mind with love.
Everyone is entitled to peaceful, collaborative, professional partnerships, but we often don’t get what we deserve. Remember that even the most stressful, combative, and pushy colleagues have something to teach us: how to say no, even when it costs us the relationship.