How to Turn Around a Negative Working Relationship


There are four steps which will enable you to convert a negative working relationship to one that is neutral or on par for very positive.

Step 1: Acceptance

The first step in turning around a negative working relationship is the awareness and acceptance that a negative working relationship can lead to your own ineffective execution of projects and processes relative to your success. That is, in succeeding within in a workplace, rarely is it, that one individual person’s success is the sole factor to upward mobility. Team work and the ability to neutralize conflict among essential colleagues is not only an ideal characteristic to possess but also difficult to achieve. Once you accept that you NEED to find a way to work with this person(s), you’ll be mentally resisting such statements like “It’s just not worth it” “I really don’t care if I get along with this person or not” “I give up on this person”. Remember, every long-term relationship takes work !

Step 2: Root Cause

Brainstorm the possible reason(s) that this negative working relationship exists. Can you drill down to a specific event which was the cause? Is it pure personality conflict? Did you do something to that individual or vice versa? While the reason for the negative working relationship may seem readily apparent, the reason may sometimes be more subtle.  Dig deep and think about the limiting factors preventing you and that individual from a better working relationship. Once you identify the reasons, write them down and keep them somewhere safe. Next, establish a date to impact positive change within 30 days to address these issues.

Step 3: Open the Door

This step is not a confrontation but it’s an opportunity to ask the person how they are doing, how their family is doing, and showing genuine care to that individual. Open the door by stopping for 5 minutes and keep your ears and eyes open using active listening. Start doing this as frequently as you can. If the individual feels that perhaps you’re new-found interest is disingenuous, tell them you feel like you don’t know them and just want to get to know them. The key here is kindness!

kind, adjective (source: Dictionary.com)

1.of a good or benevolent nature or disposition, as a person

2.having, showing, or proceeding from benevolence

3.indulgent, considerate, or helpful; humane (often followed by to)

4.mild; gentle; clement

5.British Dialect. loving; affectionate.

Step 4: Continuous Apparent Care

Create a paradigm shift for the person by showing apparent care for that individual. As you are working on projects and processes with that individual, consider their input. Manage your facial expressions and seek to convert prior problems into archaic history. This can be done!

If you need to, after Step 3, inform the person that you’re committed to getting on a good path with them towards a healthy work relationship because of the endless amount of time required of your partnership at work. Be clear and show apparent care and commitment to repair things. Continue this path for 30 days. After the 30 days, be cognizant of your statements and remember that while converting a negative working relationship into a neutral or positive takes time! It’s worth the investment to the path of joint success and demonstrating your resiliency. Additionally, a shift in this relationship may lessen your stress and improve your relationship with others in your workplace.

Finally, print this post and put in a workplace common area such as the break room or bulletin board.

Good luck on your journey towards healthy working relationships!

Jessica Sellers-Duggan is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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