6 Ways To Build (not break) Work Place Relationships.

Do you ever feel like you just clash with some people and no matter what you do or what you say, they always take the opposite side of any argument with you? You know… that person that you see in the hall way coming toward where you’re standing and you immediately look down at your shoes so that you don’t engage eye contact, internally reciting “Please don’t talk to me. Please don’t talk to me!”

I am currently facilitating some training for a group of staff over several days with the goal of enhancing their working relationships. I am really enjoying working with this great group and it is so interesting to see the many “light bulb moments” they are having discussing their strengths and values. But what is so interesting, is listening to them talk about the “trials and tribulations” they have when trying to get on with certain individuals which they feel they just “clash” with.

I have been hearing statements like “Why can’t she just get it?”, “What is her problem?”, “Why won’t she listen?”, “We just can’t get along!”, “I just avoid him now”………………..Sound familiar?

We so often engage in blaming others for our poor relationships rather than looking for opportunities to be “above the line” and consider how we can focus on accountability and be solution focused.

Stay above the line

Stay above the line

Have a go at some of these techniques to assist you build one of the best workplace tools of all – your relationships.

1)   Understand Your Bad Habits.

Go on, you know you have them. We all sometimes engage in behaviours which we know we shouldn’t, but we just can’t seem to help ourselves. Which of the following are you guilty of?

  • Do I stop listening when I think I know the message the speaker is trying to convey?
  • Do I find it difficult to listen to other’s views if they are different to mine?
  • Do I start thinking of what I am going to say while the other person is still talking?
  • Do I daydream when I should be listening?
  • Do I block the other person out if I don’t like them?
  • Do I sometimes respond to others in a sarcastic or overly blunt way?
  • Can I receive criticism without becoming defensive?
  • Do I interrupt?
  • Am I aware of what body language I am demonstrating?
  • Do I avoid eye contact?

What could you do to manage some of these bad habits and strengthen your relationships as a result?

2)   Schedule Time To Build Relationships.

Relationships need TLC just like everything else. Try this exercise…

Write down your top 8 Relationships?


What specific strategies could you undertake each week to enhance the relationship you have with that person?

(Ideas – spend more time, get to know a personal interest, discover their strengths, just listen (don’t talk), invite them for a coffee, find out if you have any similar interests)

3)   Avoid Gossiping

No more need to be said. Just don’t do it!!

You know how much it hurts when the gossip is about you. So why inflict that on others.

4)   Practice Forgiveness.

I know that sometimes people just plain and simple piss us off. And a lot of the time, we tend to hold a grudge and end up not talking to this colleague for days, even weeks.

But you know what… it’s just plain exhausting and draining to keep this up.

So how can we practice forgiveness?

Now don’t confuse forgiveness with forgive and forget. Forgiveness just means we no longer feel resentment and anger toward the other person. In other words, we let go of the emotion. Try this forgiveness exercise

1.   Write a paragraph on your view

2.   Write a paragraph on the other persons view

3.   Write a paragraph as an observer (fly on the wall)

I did this exercise with a client recently and she recognised with a laugh that “the fly on the wall didn’t really give a shit…. So why do I?”

5)   Flex Your Style.

Self-Awareness is one of the cornerstones of Emotional Intelligence. So ask yourself, do you have a clear idea of your communication and behavioural style? Do you have a clear understanding of your colleague’s communication and behavioural style? Now do you “flex” your style to fit the person you are communicating with? Are you speaking with someone who is quite analytical and therefore wants details? Are you speaking with someone who is people oriented and likes to explore ideas with lots of discussion? Or are you speaking with someone who is very efficiency oriented and just wants the facts?

6)   Own Your Issue

If you have an issue with someone you work with, own it and stay above the line and embrace opportunities, possibilities and solutions. Rather than say… “This is all too hard”, ask yourself…. “How could I make it easier?”

Want to know more about improving work place relationships? Send me an email at to enquire about training and coaching to build strategies to enhance work place relationships.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or









5 Ways You Can Manage Individual Differences

Just consider for a moment all the ways you are different and diverse from everyone else around you. Your gender, age, culture, education, peer group, appearance, religion, experiences, personality, parents, siblings, mental toughness, resilience, knowledge, confidence, interests, hobbies, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, mental health, physical health, fixed or growth mindset, values……etc etc. I could go on and fill a dozen pages with all the ways we are different from each other.

But I could also fill pages with all the ways we are similar (or even the same) to each other as well. We all have fears, challenges, desires, have a need to “fit in”, want friends, want be listened to, get emotional, doubt ourselves, strive to find meaning and purpose for our lives, want to find love, want to feel secure, fear rejection, want to be happy….. etc etc etc.

Yes we have differences, but we are basically the same in so many ways. So why is it so hard for us to get along with each other and manage our differences? Conflict is normal, essential and very manageable. There are even significant benefits to conflict and disagreement. Differences are inevitable, but I think we also have an opportunity to recognise what we want and how we can achieve this without us making a judgement that we are right and “they” are wrong. You never know how similar your emotions, goals, needs etc. actually are to another.

So… how do we manage these individual differences and allow our relationships to thrive?

1)   Consider your Positive Intention – ask yourself, “What is my positive intent in interacting and having a conversation with this person. Be clear and focused. If you enter a conversation with a negative intent, “They need to know what a negative impact they have on others”– to belittle, tell them they are wrong, be negative, criticise etc, then you are likely to get a very poor result to your interaction. But if you determine your Positive Intent, for example “My positive intention is to give them feedback to allow them to build positive relationships with peers”, then you are much more likely to enter a conversation with the potential for a positive outcome which strengthens the relationship, not breaks it down.

2)   Find any common ground – often it is easy to see all the ways someone is different to you, but ask yourself, “How is this person’s goals the same as mine?” Are you both looking for acceptance, to just have someone to listen, do you both have a fear of losing control or a desire for security. If you can find some commonality to your relationship, interaction or problem, then there is a much greater opportunity for success and strengthening of a relationship.

3)   What can I learn? Our diversity is our strength. Have you ever been stuck on a project and taken it to a colleague to let them look at it, only to be struck by an “Aha” moment when they point out the obvious thing you’ve been missing? We all see things through different eyes and everybody’s lens is a very valuable commodity. So before you jump to conclusions… listen, seek to understand. It just may provide you with valuable insights you had never considered before.

4)   Understand your own behaviour and its impact on others. So often we look to other people to see what they are doing “wrong”, why they don’t “get it”, and ask “what is their problem?” But how often do we turn that magnifying glass on ourselves. After all, the first two cornerstones of Emotional Intelligence are Self-Awareness and Self-Management. So ask yourself… “What is my behaviour and how does it impact others?”

5)   Embrace the difference. Individual differences are actually such a huge strength in a family, community, organisation or country. Our diversity allows us to consider different points of view, be innovative, achieve greater levels of success, have greater choices and have a growth mindset.

So the next time you are challenged with individual differences, create yourself some space to listen, put your assumptions on hold, look for options, recognise your own impact and ask questions with a positive intent. Think of the possibilities……..

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited mental toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their mental toughness to improve performance, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or