Original Spanish version published in El Comercio newspaper (Peru) on May 20, 2015
Who wants to work with people who are conceited, arrogant, bitter, resentful, or are always causing trouble in the workplace? No one, right?
In the working world, there is a range of interpersonal relationships that we need to build, and the ability to build good working relationships well is an important skill that we should never neglect. Knowing how to handle our interpersonal relationships adds much value to our employability.
We need to handle all of these relationships with the appropriate degree of emotional intelligence for each situation. This does not mean that we have to be the most popular or well-liked person at work, or that we in turn must like everybody, but we do need to try to understand and get along with every person with whom we interact. We should also try to handle every relationship with respect and politeness, and, particularly, with the degree of professionalism required in the workplace.
In my book, You, Incorporated, I tell the story of a multinational firm that hired us to help them with a merger and acquisition process in northern Peru. This firm requested our services to assist them in the process of changing the company structure to the one that they envisioned, and to assist them in managing, respectfully and carefully, the transition of some executives, employees, and workers that might be let go as a result of the merger of both organizations.
The story continues with the meetings held by the management team of the newly acquired firm. A number of executives had worked at the firm for many years and were understandably worried and apprehensive about what was going to happen to them due to the merger. However, there was one executive who looked very calm. He told us that he wasn’t worried because he was the only one in the management team with a master’s degree from a well-regarded foreign university and, most importantly according to him, he was the only one in the group who spoke English well. So, he was sure that he would continue to work at the new firm. Unfortunately, he was very arrogant and conceited, with little empathy towards the group –over the years, he had never missed an opportunity to let his colleagues know that he was better than they were. Of course, with that attitude, not many people liked him or enjoyed working with him very much.
A few months went by and the new management evaluated all the managers. It was this executive who was the only one in the entire team to be let go. Why? Because he did not get along with others. He had made no effort whatsoever to fit in with the others; and he had never bothered to develop —even just a little— his emotional intelligence. Because the members of his team preferred not to work with him, even though he was an excellent professional, and had been responsible for producing many of the organization’s achievements.
Actually, it is hard to work with someone like this. Who can work successfully with someone who has an attitude of superiority, or conversely, of a victim, or who always has a long face or a bad attitude?
Doing the right thing, being kind, as well as valuing, thinking of, and respecting others may seem old-fashioned, but they are the basic building blocks for creating good interpersonal relationships, which are key to our employability, reputation, and personal brand, and for being happier at work and in life.