The ability to form and maintain healthy relationships is one of the most important skills a person can have. After all, our relationships with others are a major source of happiness and satisfaction in life. They’re also essential for success in business.
The best business leaders know how to build strong, lasting relationships with their employees, clients, and partners. They understand that healthy relationships are built on trust, respect, and communication. They know that these relationships need to be nurtured and cared for, just like any other kind of relationship.
In the latest episode of the HR Think Tank, we speak to Elisabeth Shaw, the CEO of Relationships Australia, NSW, a leading provider of relationship support services for individuals, families, and communities. Elisabeth is a clinical and counselling psychologist with extensive experience in relationship services, having built her whole career around this skill set.
Here are some of the key takeaways she shared with Khai Ngo throughout the podcast.
Tips on Managing Relationships and Boundaries in the Workplace
Managing relationships and boundaries in the workplace can be tricky. On the one hand, you want to be able to form strong bonds with your colleagues and build a positive working environment. On the other hand, you need to maintain a certain level of professionalism and avoid crossing any boundaries.
When asked how she would approach managing an employee who is overly interested in other people’s personal lives, Elisabeth places emphasis on showing them the flip side of the coin as opposed to clamming down and telling them they’re doing something wrong.
“There’s actually some research on this—we tend to dress up our own behaviour as inherently good and argue that our intentions are only ever very noble.” So someone who is overly interested in people can say, “I’m just really interested in people, and that should be taken as a compliment.” And so, managing boundaries often involves trying to help people see the flip side of that. In other words, things are not necessarily inherently good and can have a downside. “
And when it comes to employees who overshare, Elisabeth addresses the topic from the perspective of protecting interests.
“When people overshare, I’ll sometimes address it by talking to them about protecting their interests. And that giving too much away may not always be in their interests. Like any form of exposure, sometimes you’ve given material in a way that you wish you hadn’t, or sometimes you just can’t trust others with that information. “
Managing Conflict Around Employees’ Behaviours
Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. Whether it’s a disagreement between co-workers or a clash of personalities, conflict is a natural part of any professional environment. But, that doesn’t mean that conflict should be ignored or left unchecked.
When managed effectively, conflict can actually be a positive force, leading to more creative solutions and improved team dynamics. The key is to address conflict quickly and directly, using a combination of communication and problem-solving skills.
Elisabeth shares how she believes that a lot of the problem lies with people’s fear of speaking up in the moment.
“The reason people develop a reputation is because they’re surrounded by conflict and avoidant people who never tell them that they’ve overstepped. So, of course, they keep wandering along in life, as we all do, having no idea that they’re crossing boundaries. And the worry for me is that people can often feel very shamed and exposed once they finally find out, because it’s often addressed in a reactive manner. For example, they’ll say, ‘Everybody here thinks this about you’—which can be incredibly shaming. “
Instead, if you manage conflict in the moment, you’ll likely find that it’s much easier to resolve than if you let it simmer.
She also mentions that conflict avoidance is often linked to the fear of conflict getting out of hand and is generally related to a performance issue that hasn’t been properly managed.
“Conflict can go badly wrong if it’s often driven by one or two people whose behaviour should have been managed but wasn’t. So, these people will often dominate the group and take over. So I think a lot of that is actually about managing individuals. And sometimes the leadership doesn’t do that and starts doing too much training for the group, instead of going up to Bob and saying, ‘Bob, you’re out of line.’”
Lastly, Elisabeth touches on how, by encouraging a healing and repair process, you can often take the sting out of what has happened, “Even if something didn’t go well if it’s effectively repaired, then there’s still learning in it.”
In any work environment, it is important to establish and maintain healthy relationships with those around you. This includes setting clear boundaries in order to create a respectful and productive workplace. And when conflict arises, it is important to be able to manage it in a way that doesn’t damage these relationships.
We had Elisabeth Shaw, CEO of Relationships Australia, NSW, join us on the latest episode of the HR Think Tank to share with leaders how to approach managing workplace relationships. Beyond sharing insights into managing boundaries and internal conflict, she also delves into the role of professional ethics in workplace relationship management; achieving true collaboration in the workplace; concepts that help employee well-being; and celebration considerations for remote team milestones.
Make sure to tune into HR Think Tank Season 2 Episode 1 to find out more about the organisational relationships and wellbeing support that Elizabeth has implemented, based on her learning and experience from counselling as well as relationships, ethics, and executive coaching.