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Signs of a Bad Relationship in the Workplace

Whether at work or at home knowing these signs of a bad relationship will help you to stop the rot before it is too late. Use these tips to lessen relationship problems.

Regardless of whether you are at work or home the signs of a bad relationship are similar. If your relationship is in trouble one or more of the factors listed below may be at play. So use the tips and other articles in this section of the site to improve the relationship .... (if that is what you want of course!)

Signs of a Bad Relationship Infographic

No Exclusive Time Together

Without quality time no relationship survives. Regardless of whether it's your life partner or someone who is reporting to you in a workplace relationship, create the space that enables the two of you to spend exclusive time together, so your connection is well-nourished. One-to-one time strengthens your ability to trust each other.


Do you have a colleague at work or a best friend who knows you inside out?  Knows your fears, your hopes, your dreams? Through one-to-one time people get to see that you care for them and are willing to help/support them to succeed.


If you aren't taking time to connect with the people who are important to you, you are on the slippery slope to losing touch with what each of you wants, and needs, from this relationship. Over time each of you may begin to feel that you aren't on the same page.


As discussed on the Trust page - people will be more likely to support you if they believe you care about them and their life.


Check out our one-on-one meetings article for ideas on how to hold these meetings with your direct reports and what to discuss.

Snide/Sarcastic/Negative Comments

This is one of those easy to spot signs of a bad relationship. You know when you're doing it, and you know when you are on the receiving end. It never feels good whether you're the receiver or the giver. 


People remember the negative before the positive. Research suggests that you need five positive experiences to negate one negative experience. So if you have been guilty of sending barbs to another person - you have your work cut out for you!


Even if feel you are well justified to make a negative comment to the other person ... if you want the relationship to thrive then practice 'shush'. 'Shush' means keeping your mouth closed until you can say something that, at best, will enhance the relationship; or at least, not damage it any further.

Defensiveness Kills Relationships

People become defensive whenever they (their beliefs, feelings or character) are under threat. And, if things have been heading south in the relationship for a while, you can guarantee that defensiveness is a significant issue.


When people are defensive, they stop listening.


No listening = no communication.


No communication = No relationship!


Shift to a stance of wanting to learn and curiosity. Cultivate a mindset of curiosity about why they said/did what they did. And why you reacted the way you did. When you get good at practicing the skills of insight and reflection, you will help any relationship to be more successful.


The communicating without defensiveness article gives you more strategies on how to communicate less defensively.

Buried Resentments are Poisonous

Buried resentments is one of the signs of a bad relationship that can be easily overlooked. If something is bothering you let the other person know, quickly but calmly. You will damage the relationship the longer you leave things to fester.


Unfortunately, most people aren't taught how to let others know about their feelings or reactions to a situation, in a way that builds a relationship - not tear it down. Most people are good at blaming others while justifying their own performance. But not so good at focusing on finding ways to solve problems that inevitably arise in every relationship.


In "Successful Feedback" you will discover how to sit down and talk through an issue with someone, way before it blows up into something unmanageable.

Your Differences are Creating Friction

Celebrate Your Differences. Differences can make for a balanced relationship. But of course, those very differences can be frustrating.


For example, you like to make decisions spontaneously. Your work colleague likes to plan ahead and make sure they have all the T's crossed and I's dotted. Their strengths may well be your weakness and vice versa. With self-awareness and maturity, you discover ways to appreciate and use their idiosyncrasies and different styles for the greater good of you both.


In the Insights to Success training, you can discover the four major styles of people and how to best work, and live, with people who think and behave differently from you.


When you learn to celebrate your differences, you won't see your differences as one of the signs of a bad relationship. In fact, you'll discover what a strength they can be!

Focusing on Faults

For some reason, it seems to be human nature to focus on the things that people get wrong, rather than the things they do right. Unfortunately when you are in the mode of fault-finding that is what you will see more and more of, and miss the things people do well!


My daughter reminded me of that concept when I complained about her floor-drobe.  (Do all families with teenagers have floor-drobes? You know the clothes are hung on the floor... or is that just unique to my family?!)


She said, "You are always complaining about the things I don't do, but you hardly notice all the good things I do." I felt she was exaggerating, but there was a kernel of truth, that I had to listen to. She was reminding me to focus on what I want, not on what I don't want.


It is a much better approach is to reward the behavior you desire and ignore the behavior you don't want. From a law of attraction perspective, you are setting yourself up to bring forth the best in the other ... not the worst, which is what you do when you focus on faults.


Unfortunately, focusing on faults, can be hard for you to monitor and realize you have been doing it ... until it is too late! The person on the other end of your fault-finding, picks up on your vibe about them, pretty darn quick and responds accordingly!


Your vibe about someone can help or hinder another person's performance and reaction to you. In the One-on-One Meeting Training, I share with you the research about, and the impact of, 'pygmalion leadership'. If you are a negative pygmalion leader, you are likely shooting yourself in the foot in terms of getting the best performance from others.

Broken Agreements

We all have times when we have a glitch and break promises. For example, you promise to get a report to someone by 2 pm and miss the deadline. Or, you promise to get home early from work to see the kid's concert - but 'something important came up at work!' These broken agreements are a trust issue.


When people feel let down by you, they stop trusting you. Trust is the foundation of all relationships. Big or small, over time, broken promises erode any partnership.


If You Break An Agreement, Face it Directly. Let the person know that you are sorry for not meeting your commitment (no matter how small). Then commit to yourself, that you will hold yourself responsible for only making promises that you can keep. And, if something of a different priority does pop up make sure you let the other person know fast. That way you'll ensure that they trust your integrity, and the importance you place on your commitments to them as a partner in the relationship. 


A word of warning. If you keep putting other priorities in front of your promises, then expect the relationship to tank. They'll no longer trust your word.

Forgetting to be Appreciative

Give the gift of a compliment. An effortless comment of "great coffee" can be of great value to someone who is feeling taken for granted.


Everyone wants to feel appreciated. It takes a small amount of effort and a few moments for you to acknowledge another person.


You can access some sample appreciation letters that you could write to people in your team to help you build relationships.


If you are facing any of these signs of a bad relationship and would like to discover the skills to improve the relationship, then access "Successful Feedback".

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