Natural competition between work groups, driven by narrowly focused departmental goals and strengthened by reward systems that promote silos, make it tough for employees to develop good  peer level relationships.

How To Manage Your PeersCareer coaches and veteran CEOs alike understand and constantly stress on the importance of managing peer level relationships at work. In fact, this is one of the toughest competencies for an individual to build.Teams take pride in out-performing each other, resulting in messy political turf battles rather than strong, conducive work relationships.This phenomenon is exposed in all its unwholesome, ugly counter-productiveness when companies do a 360-degree review and discover that peer-level relationship scores are the lowest of all.

Many of us receive feedback on our poor rating on this front but prefer to forget or ignore them.

We may do this for two reasons – one, it reflects negatively on us as persons and two, we have no clue what to do about it. Here are some quick tips which may work for you.

Look In The Mirror

See yourself through your own eyes, and ask yourself what the first item on your priority list is. How often do you dig in your heels as opposed to accommodating others?

  • Mentally review the worst situations that you have to encounter while dealing with your peers, and project them into future encounters.
  • Anticipate how the other party will respond when you go about protecting your turf, time or resources in your accustomed manner.
  • Now decide whether you like what you see, or if you would ask such a person to change.
Learn To Reserve Judgment

In the day-to-day life of a corporate denizen, peers do not always play by the book. If you consider yourself a straight hitter, you will undoubtedly disapprove. What most peopletend to do in such situations is avoid direct confrontation and snipe from the trenches instead. This step often boomerangs.

If you feel it is warranted, confront your peer directly and explain why you feel that a certain action was not appropriate. If you feel that it is not serious enough for direct confrontation (or if you simply lack the nerve for it), suspend judgment and get on with your own tasks.

Allow Your Peers To Save Face

If you do decide to confront a peer over a perceived transgression, do so privately and allow him or her to save face. Also make sure you tell your peer that you value the relationship, and that this is not a judgement call. If you make a public issue out of it, two things can happen – one, the matter may snowball into a full-fledged inter-departmental battle with each side looking to score. Two, you lay yourself wide open for inevitable future attack.

Don’t Strive To Always Win

Organizations are not sprint races wherein you have to win every time. If you win all inter-departmental debates and all issues are always settled in your favour, you will be generally despised and mistrusted. At times losing diminishes anyone’s self-esteem, and it is rare for someone who has lost self-esteem because of you , will cooperate with you in the future.

Balance winning and losing, and keep the game fluid. Also, never fail to map the implication of your winning – did your triumph make someone look foolish or impact their appraisal?If yes, tone down your victory bugle. You still need everyone’s goodwill and cooperation.

Avoid Full Face-off Situations

You can never fully anticipate how another person will react to confrontation. If a peer over-reacts and gets abusive, you must be able to walk away and not be dragged to the down-and-dirty stage. Thereafter, let the dust settle for a couple of days. If your peer does not refer to the matter again and it remains unresolved, put it to your manager minus the emotions.

When you address such matters in an adult manner, your peers at large will acknowledge your maturity and deal with you on such a level in the future. Believe it or not, but people are always looking for good role models, and grateful to find someone worthy of emulation in their midst. Likewise, your seniors will also take note of such displays of emotional evolution, and may mark you up for a leadership role.

Find Ways To Reciprocate

Peers do not report to each other, and are further divided bytheir own departmental goals. The only tool at your disposal iscooperation, so don’t just ask for things to be done – find ways in which you can provide help, too. There are always opportunities to help others without compromising our own interests.The idea here is not to sacrifice but to achieve synchronicity.

Following these tips will not only help you in improving your peer-level relationship. It will also result in a more efficient utilization of your organization’s resources, and lay the foundation for your own growth within it.

Please share your experiences in dealing with your peers at work and what has helped you in improving / maintaining your relationship with them.

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Jappreet Sethi

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