How to repair broken relationships with co-workers

An expert in psychology and leadership says the key to healing the relationship is to build trust.

Bad relationships are bound to happen from time to time. In the workplace, they are typically based on fear and insecurity. However, you can repair them with a little work. Here's what you should always, sometimes and never do.

 Always remember that bad behavior comes from fear or insecurity. We're all worried that other people won't like us or are out to get us, and we're all afraid that bad things will unexpectedly come our way. The best human relationships eliminate these two fears. A good coworker is someone who you know will not purposefully do things that damage you and will act in ways that you can predict. We call this "trust" in our personal lives. So build trust by showing that you won't purposefully hurt others, even when you feel bumped or bruised. Make sure your actions appear understandable and predictable.

Sometimes you have to develop workarounds that temporarily allow you to avoid that damaged relationship. Make these tactics short-lived and abandon them as soon as possible. As anyone who's walked with a limp or used crutches knows, avoiding doing any work with one joint simply puts extra strain on all the other parts. Sometimes this triggers new and unanticipated problems. Compensating behaviors don't allow the original broken relationship to heal--they just hide it.

Never decide that the relationship has no chance to heal or get better. Choosing that option decreases all opportunities for improvement or help. Playing the martyr is not a useful role for any team member, including the CIO. People who believe relationships can heal will try things and ask for advice. They will refuse to accept that the future has to look like the present. Be a great leader by choosing the path in your relationships that leads to better tomorrows.

Erick Lauber is an applied psychologist, leadership consultant and member of the faculty at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

This story, "How to repair broken relationships with co-workers" was originally published by CIO.

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