​​Workplace Relationships

— Skylight Trust

Relationships in the workplace are a significant part of your life.

We may see the people we work with every day. We are alongside each other, through all the different changes in our personal lives, such as marriages, divorces, having children, or losing our loved ones. We may develop a close relationship with some of them, becoming friends at work and socially, or partners and with others, we may never feel comfortable or get along with very well, which may cause difficulties and arguments in the workplace.

When we have a good relationship with our managers and co-workers, it has a positive effect on our career/life. It uplifts our mood and enhances our general productivity. However, when things turn sour between us and our manager, or between us and a co-worker, it can be very stressful and can have a huge negative impact on all aspects of our life.

Here are some examples of the types of relationships one can find in the workplace and how to manage them:

Friendship: Between peers, having a workplace relationship that becomes a friendship, should make only a positive impact in both your lives. You could also become good friends with your manager, in which case it would be recommended to have clear boundaries and make sure both parties understand that. In the context of the workplace, your manager may have to make hard decisions that sometimes may have an impact on your work and your life. A complex situation may arise when you are given feedback about your performance, if is not entirely positive. Professionalism, open communication and clarity around workplace boundaries, will help.

Romantic Relationship: You often see co-workers who have become couples, and may even still work together. When two people work together they share goals, interests like career paths or experience, and that can bring them closer together, and their friendship can become an intimate romantic relationship.

Some workplaces may have a policy about intimate workplace relationships. If they do, then you will need to discuss how are you going to manage the situation. This will open the door for discussion on how serious your relationship is. You will also need to explore what the options are. Is one of you thinking of finding another job? Are you going to talk to your manager and ask them for advice?

If the relationship is between a manager and a staff member, then you may find balancing the power difference in your workplace relationship, to be an added difficulty. Be clear about boundaries and have strategies in place should problems arise. Consider seeking the help of a Counsellor if you are having difficulties.

As far as possible it helps to keep your work relationship and your intimate relationship separate. For example, leaving displays of affection out of the workplace, and the work-related talk, out of your private life.

When we don't get along

We won't necessarily like everyone in our workplace, just as we don't like every person we meet. It is not necessary to "like" someone to be able to have a professional relationship that is functional, in the workplace. If we keep the base of mutual respect and collaboration, plus the willingness to help and work towards the same goals, we shouldn't have major disagreements.

Should conflict arise, it would be recommended to have someone else to act as a third party to make decisions and/or act. If you are colleagues, having clearly defined tasks to accomplish on a project, will make it easier for you to work together, even if you don't get along.

If you and your manager don't get along, then finding ways of working together is recommended before the situation escalates to an unmanageable point. Mediation is available for every workplace, and you could ask for someone to organise it for you. Keep in mind that you both have the intention of working together for the best interest of your workplace, not winning a power struggle.

Bullying in the Workplace

Workplace bullying, is repeated and unreasonable behaviour, directed towards a worker or a group of workers that can be physical, verbal, or relational/social (excluding someone or spreading rumours). The intention is to cause fear, despair and anxiety to the victims, making leaving their job as the only option, to end the abuse.

Bullying can happen:

  • from manager to team member or other staff
  • from colleague to colleague
  • from team member or other staff to manager
  • from client to service provider
  • from service provider to client.

Bullying is repetitive and persistent, and it can include victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening a person. A single incident of unreasonable behaviour isn’t considered workplace bullying, but it could escalate and shouldn’t be ignored.

If you are experiencing bullying or harassment in your workplace, please talk to someone you trust, your manager (if they are not the ones targeting you), or someone else that can support you. Bullying can have serious consequences to your mental health and self-esteem, and it could even cause serious health conditions. Please, explore more about the topic in the section especially dedicated to bullying.

Resources Available at Skylight

Skylight is here to help you through difficult times. We can assist you in a variety of ways with information appropriate for your situation. You are welcome to visit us and receive free information and a support pack from our resource centre and borrow books from the specialist library. We also facilitate Professional Development training and offer Counselling support services for children, young people, family/whānau and individuals who are experiencing tough times.

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