women
Poor relationships with colleagues at work can cause stress. Try to analyze relationships that could be improved and identify any problem areas. Is it difficult to control your subordinates, for example, or are superiors distant and unappreciative?

Experiencing change

New organizational structures lay great emphasis on teamwork. The rapid growth of information technology can make middle managers obsolete by reducing their function as communicators of information through an organization. Redundancy of such managers and the consequent change in corporate hierarchy are part of a process known as “flattening”. Stress in a “flattened” company can arise because more people find themselves working at a similar level of seniority, and this can lead to greater competition. Employees are working more closely with their colleagues than before, and their roles in a team can often overlap. The success of a smooth-running and happy team depends on co-operation. If this is not present, conflict is likely.

Cultural differences

The opportunities for misunderstanding that arise when working with people from other countries can be intensely stressful.

If you do business with a society that is culturally different from yours, familiarize yourself with the values espoused by that society. For example, in Europe and the US, the age of senior staff is regarded as largely irrelevant – in fact, youth is seen as being linked to energy. In East Asia, however, age is respected as it is linked with experience and wisdom. Senior managers may not expect to have dealings on an equal basis with a younger person, and you should always be sensitive to this when negotiating with someone of a different age.

Observing relationships

Despite corporate restructuring, relationships at work are still largely influenced by hierarchy and by the level of cohesiveness in a group. Factors such as length of service and different skill areas play a crucial role in such work relationships. Look around your office: who goes to whom for help? Who socializes together? Is anybody isolated, and do you know why? Are there any rivalries?

Dealing with fellow workers

Manager

As a manager it is inevitable that you will come into contact with people on all levels. Keep lines of communication open at all times to avoid stressful misunderstandings and any resulting conflict.

Superior

Is your superior a reader (prefers written reports) or a listener (prefers verbal information)? Communicate in the way they prefer to maintain good relations.

Colleague

Team members may be competing with you for promotion. If you work together, be aware of any conflict of interest, and do not assume you share the same priorities.

Subordinate

Gain respect from subordinates by treating them as equals. Encourage two-way dialogue so that they know what is going on, and can make a positive contribution.

Analyzing problems

Layers of formality at work may make it difficult to confront a relationship problem, but failure to do so means bottling it up, which can be very stressful.

First, you need to identify the basic cause of the problem, then talk to someone who understands the situation and can help. Common problems between people include no feedback on decisions, office politics, uncertainty about roles, unreasonable deadlines, and personality clashes. Once you have analyzed the problem, you can decide on a solution.

TIP

Treat all staff with dignity and respect, regardless of their positions or titles.

TIP

Give co-workers a treat to show your appreciation.

TIP

Have lunch with a new colleague to establish a working relationship.

TIP

Introduce yourself to other people in your company by visiting their offices.

TIP

Share the journey to work with a colleague who lives nearby.

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