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What if I am damaging my work relationships with peers?

I have always prided myself in my ability to build strong and productive work relationships. I am fairly likable and very dependable, so people generally like working with me. I put a lot of effort into my work relationships and try to find common ground and compromise. This, unfortunately, has led to a certain level of hubris and the conviction that I always (or at least most of the time) know best.

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t doubt myself as I do, and quite often at that. However, it seems to put a certain strain on my relationships with my peers.

The other day, I came upon the report of a 360-degree assessment I had done a couple of years ago. The evaluation involved a number of questions related to my work behaviors that were asked to my manager, my direct reports, my peers, my internal clients, and stakeholders.

At the time I received the report, I was experiencing some tension in my relationship with my manager, so I focused mainly on his responses. But when I was reading it now, my attention was caught by the assessment my peers had given me.

While my scores with them were still good, they were markedly lower than the feedback I received from any other group of respondents. Moreover, some of the comments really struck me – according to some of them, I was condescending at times, and I did not make enough of an effort to understand their points of view.

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As you can see, this feedback from my peers starkly contrasts with my perception of myself. It is not enough to say that it shook me. Such discrepancies between one’s view of themselves and the way others see them can be deeply unsettling.

So, I took one good, hard look at myself and came up with a few behaviors that may be putting some tension in my peer relationships at work. And also got some ideas about why these behaviors do not affect my other relationships in the same way.

If like me, you are an overachiever who is constantly looking to conquer the next goal, take a look and see if you also exhibit some of them.

Being hyper-focused on the success of my team

Being result-oriented and having the courage to overcome the obstacles that may jeopardize your team’s success is usually viewed positively by organizations. Organizational leaders love overachievers, and teams really appreciate it if their manager stands up for them and their goals. Clients and stakeholders, of course, have a vested interest in the results the team may achieve, so they also value a focus on outcomes.

But the situation may not be exactly the same with peers. Teams and organizations operate with limited resources – budget, headcount, reward and recognition. Following your goals relentlessly and pursuing your own success may cause you to lose sight of the bigger picture and to feel entitled to more resources than your peers.

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We should not forget that while our goals are similar to the ones of our peers, they are not entirely the same, and sometimes there may be a clash between them. Being hyper-focused on your own results may lead to tunnel vision, making you blind to those clashes when they occur. Which, in its end, may put a strain on the workplace relationship with your peers.

Undercommunicating

The tunnel vision, which comes from rushing after results, can also lead to diminished communication. Your whole focus is on ensuring the main actors like your team, your manager and your stakeholders have all the information they need. And this may leave little energy and time to explain to your peers what you are doing, why you are doing it and if and how it affects them.

It also does not leave you time to ask enough questions and understand their struggles and aspirations. Thus, you may miss opportunities to collaborate and strengthen your work relationship.

Making time to maintain and nurture your relationships with your peers is essential for good cooperation. And will actually make you better at your job because you will have more knowledge, deeper process understanding and stronger allies.

Having unreasonable expectations

This insufficient communication, combined with your fervent desire to achieve, may lead to unreasonable expectations towards those around you. Holding others to the same standards you do yourself is not always a good idea. Especially if you are a perfectionist.

Different people have different skill levels, pace and priorities. Expecting everyone to do things the same way or be as passionate about the work as you are can lead to misalignment and disappointment.

This is especially true for your peers. While you can expect a certain level of performance from your team and a certain level of output from your partners and stakeholders in order to maintain positive work relationships with your peers, it might be best to try and fall in step with them.

Only then can you achieve true collaboration and reciprocity in your work relationships.

Those are just some behaviors I have identified that cause tension in my peer relationships. Let me know in the comments if you have observed or exhibited others.

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