Has an antagonistic relationship at work ever cast a cloud over you and your team? It happens to us all. Rivalries at work are natural. But they can be so destructive for the organization as a whole; sapping energy and blocking progress. Here’s a three-step method to help turn your rivalries into productive relationships, and turn your enemies into allies.
Rivalries in the workplace can be destructive to both personal career growth and group success. Many attempts to reverse rivalries fail because of the complex way emotion and reason operate in the building of trust. Using a method called the 3Rs, an effective leader can turn a rival into a collaborator, setting the stage for a healthy work life while driving fresh thinking within an organization. Step 1 of the method is redirection, shifting a rival’s negative emotions away from the adversarial relationship. This creates an opening for Step 2, reciprocity, through which a relationship can be established. Here, the essential principle is to give before you ask – offering a rival something of clear benefit and “priming the pump” for a future return that requires little effort on the rival’s part. Step 3, rationality, sets expectations of the new relationship so that efforts made using the previous steps don’t come off as disingenuous. A rival is encouraged to see collaborative opportunities from a reasoned standpoint. A key advantage of the 3Rs is that the method can work to reverse all kinds of rivalries, including those with subordinates, peers, and superiors.
The 3Rs are as follows:
With regards to the second R in particular - reciprocity- ‘giving before asking’ also sets a foundation for reciprocity with third parties, whose buy-in can positively assist in reshaping the adversarial relationship.
Even when a leader executes the 3Rs flawlessly to end a rivalry, your work isn’t necessarily done. That is because the relationship is often about more than just the two individuals. Some third parties might view a blossoming partnership with trepidation or envy, triggering new negative emotions and rivalries. But this can be headed off by framing work as beneficial not just to you and your adversary but to the whole organization, which makes the reversal of rivalry in everyone’s interest.
The 3Rs are effective, but nothing is a guarantee. In the event they don’t work, the research suggests the following:
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