Bringing Relationship Skills into the Office

Not to toot my own horn too much, but in general I am a good communicator. Thanks to a lot of therapy, hard work, and a mom who likes to talk, I've learned to say how I feel in pretty clear, concise ways. This makes relationships of all kinds a bit easier for me. So, I should have known when my co-workers wanted to confront our supervisor about some office ridiculousness that they'd put me in charge of it. Awesome. Actually, the conversation went really well, and I'd like to share what I think helped.

Before sitting down, I had consulted the other people in the office and narrowed down our concerns into two over-arching, interrelated themes: communication (logistical) and feeling valued (emotional, stemming from the logistical). I decided I would outline these and then give everyone the opportunity to elaborate individually about their particular concerns or situation.

Once I brought my supervisor in, I began by stating the obvious--conversations like these are awkward, and I was feeling somewhat uncomfortable as a result. But we all agreed that it was for the health of the organization and for our individual well-being as employees to discuss some problems we had been encountering consistently over the last few months.

After opening, each employee took an opportunity to share and provide specific examples and then our supervisor responded. At the end, we developed a plan of action for how to proceed and discussed a system for addressing future problems.

I think this is a good model for effective communication in any setting, and I learned most of it from conversations with SCL. To summarize:

1. Clarify the problem before talking. Write it down and read it back to yourself. Keep it short and clear.
2. Explain why the conversation is important (i.e. "I really care about this relationship/office/you.")
3. Lay out the issue briefly and follow up with specific, recent examples. Going back months or years only makes the problem worse. It's better to refer to something that happened recently and is fresher in both of your minds.
4. Give an opportunity for the other person to respond. Keep an open mind and be prepared to hear suggestions for how you could do things differently or more effectively.
5. Design a plan of action for how to address the issue and what to do if things do not change.

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