Have you ever worked with someone who refused to engage with you? Perhaps there was a past disagreement or maybe you’re not even sure what you may have done to hamper the relationship. A friend recently confided that she finds herself in such a situation with a colleague. She has tried to bring the problem up with the other person, and the other person dodged the subject. She wonders if she should just drop it and accept the current reality. What should we do when this happens? Here are some things we might consider:
Have a courageous conversation. Stop avoiding the subject. Bring the elephant in the room forward and place it on the table. Let your colleague know you perceive a problem with your relationship. Let him know you would like to have a stronger relationship no matter what it takes. Put the focus on the relationship not the person.
Create a holding environment. Schedule time in a private place where all views can be brought out in a safe, constructive way. This will be a stressful conversation. Consider the use of a facilitator or find a colleague with training in conflict resolution.
Identify your piece of the mess. Relationships require an effort from everyone. Be ready for the reality that you have some ownership in the problem. Acknowledging your piece of the mess and committing to change is a necessary building block to repairing the relationship.
Focus on the mission. At the end of the day, good relationships are needed to make progress on things we care passionately about. Improving the relationship is needed to close the gap between the current reality and the aspirations of your group. By focusing on “why” a strong relationship is essential to conservation, you will send a signal this is not about your pride.
As our work in conservation is constrained by declining budgets and increasing stressors, it is extremely important our relationships are solid. Colleagues that are resistant to collaboration drag down our performance ultimately increasing the cost of getting conservation done. I’d like to hear about your experiences in improving relationships. What worked and what didn’t? Look below for the link to comment.