Getting along with colleagues at work can be a difficult business, especially where the status and rank are unequal. Relationships at work fail mainly because wherever there is competition for scarce resources: like territory, salary, status, titles, promotion etc, there will be covert negativity to fuel the intense need for personal success. A bit of stabbing in the back in order to get noticed. That's not conducive to good friendships.
It's a contradiction in terms to expect people who are mainly competing with each other through their skills and talents to truly get on together, no matter how 'cooperative' they are supposed to be with the organisation's objectives. Add to that the confidence, or lack of it, of those involved, the different personalities in play and, above all, the various expectations - gender, hierarchical, professional, cultural - that they all carry individually, and the wonder is that they actually get on at all!!
Good relationships come out of cooperation, not competition. It is nurtured by an environment of mutual respect and support, where everyone is working toward a common aim without feeling threatened, undermined, neglected or unfairly treated. The average workplace where money is the bottom line and people's jobs depend on generating that income is not conducive to fostering such relationships because many people often work very hard, yet are not rewarded appropriately for it, which tends to lead to an undercurrent of resentment.
Furthermore, one simply cannot compete and cooperate effectively at the same time and end up with the desired results. Usually everyone starts off with the best intentions which soon go sour because, basically, each person looks after No.1. Each worker's aim is to ensure his/her fair share of what is available, which would then affect the strength, the potential and the growth of genuine relationships - the main reason why many of them are superficial.
The workplace is an artificial construct for the particular purpose of business transactions and professional development, with competition at its centre. The home and personal friendships are usually not competitive. They are entirely cooperative and in mutual alignment with what the parties desire. In essence, home relationships are natural interactions, based upon free choice and nurtured through mutual respect and support. Work relationships are artificially created through work roles, functions and, primarily, organisational objectives. The two are not quite the same!
For example, no matter how well two people get on at work, the minute one of them is promoted or given a pay rise that is perceived to be 'unfair' by the other, who desired it too, resentment will creep in and that friendship will be gradually be lost. Hence why many people find it really difficult to get on in the workplace, especially women who, on the whole, prefer to collaborate than to compete, and why relationships at work will tend to be problematic.
©Elaine Sihera (Ms CYPRAH) 2011
Emotional Health and People Management Consultant
"Respect and love begin with the self. If we have none, how can we give away any?