The HR Juggler

Managing Relationships: From the Playground to the Office

Posted on: June 26, 2011

Playground

My children are coming to the end of their first year in Reception and have learnt a huge amount since they started school…their reading, writing and general knowledge have come on in leaps and bounds. More than anything though, I see them starting to manage relationships with other children, learning how to navigate friendships, deal with conflict and resolve disagreements.

One of my daughters has been periodically troubled with the relationship with her “best friend” and things came to a bit of a head last week, when the friend would not let her play all day. Not unusual at this age (particularly with girls!) all fixable and resolvable.  But after talking it through with my 5-year-old, I was struck that many of these skills she is learning now, are precisely the ones that adults also need in the workplace, or any other environment where you can’t always choose who shares your space.

Here’s what we covered…with some of my follow-up thoughts

  • Actions speak louder than words

Listen to people’s actions as well as their words: if someone says they are your best friend, expect them to behave like it. As an adult, if someone’s behaviour doesn’t correlate to their espoused values then there is a trust issue and you will inevitably question their authenticity. Remember the flip-side too that others will judge you in the same way and always be consistent and deliver on what you say

  • Sometimes people don’t change

Sometimes we can change our behaviour; at other times it is so ingrained that we can’t. Change has to come from the individual and unless they want to change and are committed to doing so, things will stay the same. Find a way to get on with each-other and have a reasonable working relationship, but assume that they won’t change the things that annoy you. It’s not your job to make them change

  • Have lots of friends, not just one

Placing all of your eggs in one basket is never a good idea, either as a 5-year-old in the playground or as an adult who has a close working relationship with only one colleague. Try and branch out, ‘play’ with other people and be open to ideas, opportunities and challenges from all sorts of different people. Be inclusive of all friends or colleagues, so that you can share the learning and develop further

  • Remember what you have control over

Other people can only influence you as much as you let them. Don’t ever do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or that you know you shouldn’t. If you don’t want to do it, say no, explain why and if they still insist then walk away and find someone else to play with

  • Resolve your differences

Agree to disagree, find a way to rub along together and still be friends even if it’s no longer “best friends’. 7 years is a long time to be in a class with someone with whom you have irrevocably fallen out…people can remain colleagues for even longer! Much as I wanted to step in and ‘protect’ my daughter, I also realised that she had to deal with her friend herself and that they, between them, had to find a way to resolve the situation. Whilst mediation can help some workplace disputes, the individuals still need to be wiling to sit down and engage with each other and find a way to continue working together…better to learn these skills early

  • The ripple effect

A relationship turned sour never only affects the two people involved…there is always a ripple effect out to other friends, colleagues, families… The Mum of said friend is equally keen to make sure our daughters play nicely and we have had a couple of fairly lengthy chats with each other, trying to do all we can to ensure that they are both happy and contented. It’s hard work! But undoubtedly more simple in this situation than colleagues who refuse to work together and have a negative effect on those around them who stubbornly refuse to accept that their behaviour has a wider sphere of influence.

In my daughter’s case, peace has been restored…for now at least ;). For me, I’m going to be thinking about the relationships I have at work and elsewhere and making sure I practice what I preach!

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

2 Responses to "Managing Relationships: From the Playground to the Office"

Excellent, excellent blog Alison – oh how much we can learn from Children!!!

From a parenting perspective, being the away parent i have no knowledge of the friends and troubles with relationships my daughter has or doesnt have.

From the Adult, work place grown up perspecitve, those tips can be aligned to every part of our lives. The only thing I would add, is you must allow people to change.

When someone is changing it is not an immediate fix and bad habits often come back, so time is always needed.

Thanks for taking the time to comment Oli. Its a really good point you make as well about allowing people to change – sometimes its easy to forget that bit.

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