You’re passionate about your work and you’re nailing your role. You’re working hard and your results are on fire. And then in the middle of an otherwise raving performance review, your boss brings up the conflict you continue to have with another high-performing coworker.
“You’ve got to work on being a better team player.”
You’ve always prided yourself on building healthy relationships. But you’ve got to admit, the tension isn’t good. Not to mention, your team can smell it too. How can you expect them to work as a team, when you can’t get along with your peer?
We see it all the time–the conflict, drama and wasted energy between otherwise highly-competent high-performers. Stack ranked performance management systems can aggravate tension, but we often find it’s more complex than an artificial competition.
If you’re neck deep in conflict with a high-performing coworker, watch out for these behaviors.
7 Common Sources of High-Performer Coworker Conflict (and what to do instead)
1. You challenge them in front of others (particularly your boss.)
Your peer brings up a new idea at the staff meeting. You shoot it down with five reasons it won’t work. She’d mentioned the idea to you before the meeting and you had smiled and nodded. The truth is you weren’t really paying close attention. Now that you are really listening you’ve got some legitimate concerns.
Your co-worker feels belittled and bruised as she climbs out from under the bus you didn’t even know you were driving. “Why didn’t you tell me when I asked you before?”
You didn’t mean to be a jerk, you just want to get it right. The boss agrees with your concerns and once again praises your quick thinking.
Peer feedback is best given off-line. Give your input early, and then you can nod in full support of the enhanced plan.
2. You withhold best practices.
The Problem: You’re trying some wild and crazy ideas, and you don’t want to share before you know they’ll work. Or you got busy and forgot to share. I know you’d never purposely withhold your great ideas, but your peers may not have the same interpretation.
Let folks know what you’re up to. If it’s half-baked, describe the batter and promise updates. Peers trust peers who share what they’re doing.
3. You take the credit.
When the praise is coming your way, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion and just say “thank you.” And your co-worker is watching all this thinking “Are you kidding me, he’s not even going to mention all the work I did?”
This one is easy. Say “thank you” AND take a step back to consider and recognize your co-worker’s contribution.
4. You react poorly to feedback.
The surest way to lose friends and alienate people is to reject their feedback. If you stop hearing, they’ll stop talking (well, at least to your face.)
Be gracious and open to what they have to say. Pause to consider. If it’s stupid, shake it off. But always take the high road and thank them for their input.
5. You hoard talent.
You’ve nurtured gaggle of A players, but now you’re afraid to let them go. You’re sure to put the best talent on your projects and give the leftovers to support other objectives.
Have regular talent reviews with your peers and talk about potential next steps and developmental moves. Make a collective plan.
6. You don’t connect at a human level.
It’s easy to under-invest in co-worker relationships. Leaders tend to focus on their team and boss first, and leave peer relationships to naturally evolve. Co-worker relationships take time and energy to grow properly.
Go to lunch. Get to know them. Ask about their kids and hobbies. Do all the same things you do to connect with your team and boss. Understand their career aspirations. Ask how you can help. Side bonus, they’re likely to ask how they can help you too.
7. You don’t ask for help.
The Problem: You know they’re busy too, so you don’t ask for help. The trouble is that can make you look arrogant, or aloof.
The Solution: Understand their skills and ask for advice, or even support. There’s no greater form of flattery.
Like all relationships, it takes time, energy and deliberate focus to build trust and improve communication. It’s easy to think coworker relationships matter less than your direct reports, but often they matter more. Imagine the exponential impact of harnessing the collective power and support of other high-potential coworkers, channeling that wasted conflict into powerful collaboration.
Your turn. What advice do you have for building better relationships with a high-performing coworker?