how to improve workplace relationships

How to improve workplace relationships

By Gemma Raw

Working in a team-based workforce can have a variety of different dynamics. Whilst some practitioners may flourish in a fast-paced atmosphere, others may prefer a more sedate style of working. In a profession such as social work, where each service and team have their own individual styles of working, it may take you some time to find out what style of working is most suited to you.

We work hard to support our candidates; and part of the role is making sure that once a candidate is placed into a job role, that they feel supported and able to work to the best of their ability. As we spend so much of our lives at work, it’s incredibly important that we feel happy with our working environment. That we feel supported by colleagues and empowered to work effectively. But sometimes, through no fault of our own, it can feel that workplace relationships with other colleagues are starting to sour. This can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety or even feeling like you want to find an alternative job. 

If this sounds familiar to you, and you’re unhappy with your current social work job or you’re experiencing a breakdown in communication with a co-worker or manager, then we have some suggestions which may improve your working environment. 

Keep a positive state of mind

Positive thinking can be much more powerful than you may immediately think. If you find that you’re struggling to work because of a situation with a co-worker, or issues with the office environment, then simply changing your mindset can help you to re-evaluate your opinion. 

Using the ‘glass half full’ approach, take a few moments each day to remind yourself of what you enjoy most about your job. You may need to re-discover your passion for social work to help you cope with any negative workforce situations. 

If you find that you’re having an issue with one person, think about using positive thinking to stop yourself being affected by that one individual. Your job and your career shouldn’t be impacted by one bad relationship, so try to move away from the situation and focus on what you do well. 

Suggest practical solutions to solve minor irritations

Every office will have moments where co-workers annoy each other. Whether you have dedicated workspaces or you simply hot desk where you can, it’s easy to become distracted by minor irritations. Perhaps the person on the next desk annoys you by slurping their tea, or maybe their constant chatter is preventing you from focusing upon your latest case report. 

If your office issues are easily solved, then don’t spend time and effort stressing on small issues. Instead, think about what practical steps you can take to resolve the situation. You may find that simply giving yourself more breathing space by moving your desk away to a different side of the office could diffuse any tense atmosphere. 

If the situation between yourself and a co-worker has become untenable then ask for a meeting where you can resolve your differences in a private environment. Many office issues are often caused by poor communication which could be easily resolved through a short conversation. 

Are you communicating effectively?

As social workers, you know how important communication is, particularly in office environments. A jokey message which is written down in an email can be wildly misinterpreted, whilst a short blunt comment on an internal message board could be taken hugely out of context. 

If you are having communication issues with a colleague, then why not step back and view all communications with a critical eye. Perhaps an email was sent when a face-to-face conversation may have been more appropriate? Or perhaps what was intended as a light-hearted comment could have been misconstrued as offensive? In many office scenarios, simply taking the time to talk to a co-worker can be hugely beneficial. 

No one wants to work in an environment where two co-workers do not get along. Not only is it distracting to both parties, but it can also create an unhealthy environment for other colleagues as well so it’s important to try and deal with any problems as swiftly, and as professionally as you can. 

Ask to speak to your line manager

If you’ve tried speaking to the individual, and you’ve taken practical steps to resolve the situation but nothing has improved, you may find that you need to arrange an appointment with your line manager. 

Speaking to your manager or your Sanctuary consultant can help you to identify the source of the tension. If it is an issue between one or two specific people, then chances are, your line manager will be aware of the problem and will have begun to think about ways to rectify the problems. 

It’s important to remember that everyone will be working towards the same goal; to empower the lives of the people that you care for. Therefore, it will be in your line manager’s best interest to resolve the situation as quickly as possible so that you can all focus upon the task at hand. 

If you are experiencing a negative situation at work, always speak to your Sanctuary consultant. We have written a selection of pieces around navigating your social work career which may also help.