Working relationships: how to build bridges between unhealthy rivals

Fall out

Recent research from Totaljobs has found that 6 in 10 UK workers have someone they consider to be a ‘work enemy’.

While ‘enemy’ may seem a strong word, the impact poor working relationships can have on a team, and department shouldn’t be underestimated. Our research revealed that over three-quarters of people who say that they have a poor relationship with a team member claim that as a result, they are not happy in their job, and in turn 30% believe their performance has dropped.

On top of this, almost 1 in 5 call in sick for work, 16% resign and a whopping 70% of respondents claim that a fall out with a peer has led them to start searching for a role elsewhere.

This follows our research into the importance of workplace friendships, and how fostering bonds can keep a team engaged, delivering more, and delivering better. In fact, 9 in 10 employers believe that the forming of strong working relationships improves productivity in their business.

So, it’s clear that the stakes are high.

But what happens when relationships sour?

While promoting a positive, friendly work environment is paramount to employers, it’s vital that they equally consider the other side of the coin – and decide how best to manage potential disagreements and fall outs between staff.

Our research revealed that most workers have a colleague that they don’t see eye to eye with, and in many cases this person is a team member.

It can be true that familiarity can breed contempt, and our findings show that those of a similar age, gender and seniority are the most likely to be the source of frustration. This suggests that rivalry can be the hotbed of these disagreements. Interestingly, some 85% of people claim that these difficult relationships started out well, before sharply deteriorating.

So, when does healthy rivalry become unhealthy? More than 60% of UK workers gave the same two reasons for disliking a colleague. These being a difficult colleague prone to “bending the truth to make themselves look good” and “commenting on others’ work performance.”

While human nature must be accounted for, employers have a task to ensure that they build and equip a harmonious team, and don’t lose top talent as a result of a petty, or not-so-petty squabble.

What can employers do?

If rivalry is to blame, it’s clear that an open, flat and fair company structure could help remedy such an issue. By readily affording all staff opportunities such as learning and development, employers can avoid peers becoming opponents.

On top of this, employers are encouraged to promote open discussions, where concerns can be raised and discussed without fear of reprisals. While ignoring the issue can be tempting, communication is key to any healthy relationship. This is supported by 1 in 4 people claiming that relations improved after discussing the issue. For managers, the focus should always be to manage these conversations and ensure that negative effects such as bullying and isolation are avoided at all costs.

But employers needn’t just be reactive. By proactively encouraging a positive company culture, and promoting company successes, organising social events, offering communal areas and team-building opportunities, the impact and fall out of any disagreements will reduce.

Find out more

Research shows that 90% of unsuccessful hires is down to poor cultural fit. With this in mind, we have partnered with psychometrics and company culture experts Good&Co to help employers looking to hire a well-knit team and improve communication.

Through the Good&Co Pro platform, which employers can test with a 30-day free trial, hiring managers can define, develop and recruit using their unique company culture.

Click here to find out more

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