Having stronger relationships with the people you work with can make working life better, and can positively impact upon your career. While that seems obvious, a lot of us struggle to improve our workplace relationships.
See the latest issue, Incite 18, for more information.
Performing a “stakeholder analysis” may sound like a pretty cold way of getting along better with people, but it can be a very worthwhile exercise. Write down a list of everyone you are connected with– colleagues, students, administrators, support staff, collaborators, etc. Next draw a graph of Influence vs. Interest. Influence means how important a group of people are in terms of your career, or what impact they can have on your future. Interest is important your work is to them. Use this grid to clarify which stakeholders are the most important for your future career progression.
Assess individual relationships
Think about how those relationships work on an individual level, i.e., what is it that you need from them, and what do they need from you? If one of these needs isn’t being met adequately, this may be a relationship you want to try and improve. Good relationships start with the needs of both parties being met.
Improve a problematic relationship
If a relationship is problematic (e.g. needs are not being met, or there is tension), and it is someone with high influence or interest in your stakeholder grid, you can make a conscious effort to improve that relationship. Tips include:
- Give something without expecting something back. Offer help without them asking.
- Listen actively. Concentrate on hearing their point of view, and consider it properly.
- Involve them in group activities e.g. coffee mornings or charity events.
- Don’t gossip and keep confidences secret to build trust.
- Get to know them on a personal level.
- Be more honest with them.
Engage to increase interest
The more interest stakeholders have in your work, the more those relationships can impact upon your career- especially if they are influential (or will be in the future). You could give a seminar to advertise a recent publication, or get involved in a public engagement event. You could approach potential collaborators with ideas for work, explaining your own research focus and how it fits in with theirs.