Three Ways to End the Most Stressful of Working Relationships

Adam Grant, in his book “Originals,” identifies a critical finding: ambivalent relationships are worse than negative ones. They cause more stress, anxiety, and depression than negative relationships because it takes more emotional energy to work with and manage the inconsistencies. What’s worse, we are often apathetic when it comes to these “frenemy” relationships and accept them not seeing the cost. 

At the executive level, ambivalent relationships can impact and ripple through the entire organization. A manager on my team recently commented how refreshing it was that my colleague from Marketing and I get along. She appreciated how we openly voice our disagreements when we have them and maintain respect and levity. She went on to explain that our two predecessors didn’t openly get along, but didn’t openly disagree and described the working relationship as “highly awkward.” The result: my team avoided collaborating with Marketing altogether because of it.

Here are three ways to end ambivalent relationships:

  1. Lose the apathetic nature: In relationships, we always assume that the other person has 50% of the weight to pull. If you want to have a great relationship with someone, you have 100% of the responsibility. It’s likely that you’re trapped in a certain point-of-view that you have of this person, and your POV is getting in the way of your relationship – get over yourself and give it up.
  2. Make Quality Requests: We often fail to make proper requests of others, and then when they aren't met to our satisfaction, we think it's other people fault (when it was us that made a shi*ty request). Remember a request is made up of your terms of satisfaction and the time in which you need it by to be satisfied. A request without time or specifics has little quality. Hint: remove “just,” “but,” “maybe,” “kind-of,” from your requests.
  3. Break the pattern: Talk about different subjects than your norm, change the physical locations that you often chat in or use FaceTime versus a phone call. Find commonalities you have with your values, what you enjoy and what you're up against in your work life. Use and leverage these commonalities to create a quality relationship.