Walking Points

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Walking PointThe September 2014 article The Four Reasons Working Relationships Fail highlights Dr. John Gottman’s University of Washington study identifying four behavioral indicators which led with 93% accuracy to the dissolution of a marriage: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20140915123651-50578967-four-signs-your-relationships-are-failing

It is our contention that there are ten unsurmountable behaviors, leaving leaders little option but to disengage when possible, or just hope for the best when not. We hope that defining these ‘walking points’, will help people think about what they can change and whether they should move on.

Expect Respect

  1. Respect for others is a requirement for leaders from any chair. Holding others in contempt for not thinking, behaving, acting, doing something like you should be done makes you difficult to be with, even if you are right. For it’s not about being right, it’s valuing the right for others to do things differently, and being open to thinking that things could or should be done differently.
  2. Feedback is a terrific learning tool, and delivered in a positive, constructive way is a great way to learn. But constant and continual criticism, especially when attacking character and things-that-can’t-be-changed is very hard to live by. The bottom line is that you yourself should decide what you should change and whether and why that should be changed, and if the other person thinks it’s her/his right to make that decision for you, there will be no winners.

Communicate Directly

  1. Direct communication is a critical component of healthy relationships, so refusing to engage and work through feelings and issues is counter-productive. Being defensive and acting the victim may continue to bring up old problems and issues, but will not help you and the other party figure out how to fix the problem going forward.
  2. Similarly, avoiding and withdrawing confrontations and denying that problems exist will not help both parties understand and resolve the issues at hand.

Timing’s Everything

  1. In a work relationship where roles are defined, one person may not be ready to assume the role she/he has been given. There may be a lack of maturity, understanding, knowledge, experience or ability to assume the role given, and both parties suffer. Unless both are able to change the way they need to interact with others, the relationship is doomed to fail.
  2. Similarly, it’s hard to separate work and life – life happens and someone perfectly reasonable and capable may not be emotionally, spiritually, physically able to get the job done. Unless she or he is able to recognize that and make changes, others who work with this person are required to carry the load, bail out the project, take the blame, etc.

No-Jerks Allowed

  1. People who are self-centered and selfish may be OK to work with in the short term, but in the end, their focus on themselves and their own self-interest, even putting it in front of the team, the company and others, will lead to their downfall. I hope that you’re not part of that journey.
  2. People who are not jerks by nature, but who are entrenched in how things should work and inflexible about adopting anything or anyone new wind up also dooming the company. It’s not your job to help them become more flexible – if you find someone inflexible, find another relationship or role.
  3. People who are not jerks by nature, but who lack the competence and experience to lead might find themselves indecisive and fickle when making decisions, and find themselves easily blaming others when things don’t go as expected.

Everybody’s Different


10. It’s all about chemistry. You could work with a stellar boss or co-worker and all pistons would fire no matter what you do together. And that same person can’t work successfully with anyone else. And vice versa! So if it’s just not working for you, no matter how hard you work to make it a productive, collaborative relationship, it might be time for one or both of you to move on.

These are our thoughts on behaviors that lead to failed relationships. What are yours?

Next month, we’ll talk about politics in the workplace – the games that people play and what to do about it.

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