“Working relationship” is the ultimate oxymoron when you’re dealing with a micromanager. Or a victim, slacker, or critic for that matter.
And it does matter, because going to work with a pit in your stomach is the worst … and nowadays we count on our jobs to bring out our best. Just like we want our personal relationships to cover all bases, we also want a professional life rich with meaning and purpose and a workplace that's supportive of our emotional and physical well-being.
A little on the touchy-feely side to be sure. When you consider, however, that 65% of startups are sunk by co-founders’ conflicts, it clearly pays to get along.
That said, the contradictions of any relationship are complicated. This is why, according to psychotherapist Esther Perel, relational intelligence is the key to workplace success.
Only human, after all
It used to be that keeping emotions out of the office was a given. But today we put a premium on authenticity, transparency, and empathy in all realms of life. Who you are as a person correlates to your success at work:
“Each of us carries specific narratives which guide our needs and expectations – how we connect to others, how we define trust, and how we engage or avoid conflict. Most importantly, these inner stories determine how we communicate and elicit curiosity and collaboration. We don’t magically become different people when we walk into our office.”
Recent research shows that companies experience better outcomes by (wait for it) treating people like human beings. Insisting that leaders also participate in health and well-being initiatives isn’t just a nice idea — it’s a bottom-line booster.
We can work it out
According to Perel, your “relational resume” reflects your upbringing, and it's just as important as your professional CV.
If you were raised to believe that relationships are peripheral — you’re alone in this world and must rely solely on yourself — then you probably don’t delegate. But you do trade in resentment, because the world is on your shoulders.
On the other hand, if you grew up believing relationships are central — there to nurture and support you — then you’re likely more of a team player. But if your faith isn’t returned in kind, your dedication may wane.
One isn’t necessarily better than the other. Relational thinking brings in self-awareness and accountability to shift workplace dynamics for improved trust, connection, and communication.
The golden rule, says Perel, is if you want to change someone else, start by changing yourself.
What Business Leaders Can Learn About Workplace Dynamics from Couples Therapy (Esther Perel video, SXSW 2019)