If you've spent enough time in the workforce, you almost certainly have a trail of damaged professional relationships behind you. That doesn't mean you're a bad manager or employee; it's simply a fact that some people don't get along, and when we have to rely on each other (to finish the report, to execute the campaign, to close the deal), there are bound to be crossed wires and disappointments.
Here's how to buck up and repair a professional relationship that's gone off the rails.
First, it's important to recognize that making the effort is worthwhile. Obviously it'll ratchet tension down at the office if you're not glaring at your colleague every time they enter the room. But resolving this tension will actually aid your own productivity. You can eliminate unresolved matters that nag at your mind.
Next, recognize your own culpability. It's easy to demonize your colleague. But you're almost certainly contributing to the dynamic in some way, as well. If you think your colleague is too quiet, you may be filling up the airtime in meetings, which encourages them to become even quieter. If you think he's too lax with details, you may start micromanaging him so much. To get anywhere, you have to understand your role in the situation.
Now it's time to press reset. If you unilaterally "decide" you're going to improve your relationship with your colleague, you're likely to be disappointed quickly. The moment they fail to respond to a positive overture or display an irritating behavior, you may conclude that your effort was wasted. Instead, try to make them a partner in your effort.
Finally, you need to change the dynamic. Even the best of intentions – including an agreement with your colleague to turn over a new leaf – can quickly disintegrate if you fall back into your old patterns. To write down a transcript of what was said by each party, so you can begin to see patterns – where you were pushing and she was pulling. Over time, it's likely that you'll be able to better grasp the big picture of how you're relating to each other and areas where you can try something different.
We often imagine that our relationships are permanent and fixed – I don't get along with him because he's a control freak, and that's not likely to change. But we underestimate ourselves, and each other. It's true that you can't give your colleagues a personality transplant and turn them into entirely different people; we all have natural tendencies that emerge. But clearly understanding the dynamics of the relationship – and making changes to what's not working – can lead to markedly more positive results.