« «
Oct 13 2015

5 Steps to Salvaging a Negative Work Relationship


If you’ve clashed with a coworker, don’t worry—you’re not the only one. According to CPP’s Global Human Capital Report, 85% of people experience conflict in the workplace. But just because conflict is normal doesn’t mean it’s healthy. CPP also found that conflict’s impact on productivity costs around $395 billion per year.

Next time you’re butting heads with someone you work with, take these steps to resolve the situation and fix the relationship:

Analyze What Happened

When you’ve clashed with someone, it’s almost impossible to be objective. You feel defensive, emotional, and angry. However, before you start making amends with your coworker, you need to understand the situation holistically.

Take a piece of paper, and write out:

  • The original cause (Did he sabotage you in a meeting? Did you forget to email him some important reports?)
  • How it escalated (Did you give her an angry comment? Did he complain about you to another person in the office?)
  • The effects (Have you made your colleagues feel uncomfortable? Is your boss disappointed in you?)

Once you have a 360-degree view of what happened, you’re ready for the next step.

Acknowledge What You Did Wrong

Thinking about the poor decisions you made isn’t very fun, but it’s productive. First, you’ll feel more empathy for your coworker. Second, you’ll know what you shouldn’t do next time. Third, you’ll have a better idea of what to say in your apology. (You knew an apology was coming!)

It’s probably a good idea to write this part down, too.

Visualize Your Future Relationship

You also want to spend some time imagining what you’d like this relationship to look like going forward. While becoming best friends isn’t likely, being able to collaborate on projects, sit next to or near each other at office events, and send cordial emails would be ideal.

Once you have a mental picture of your future relationship, you can share it with your coworker.

Talk One-on-One

After the preparation, it’s time to actually speak with your colleague. We recommend sending a respectful email along the lines of:

Dear John,

 Do you have any time today or tomorrow to sit down with me? I’d like to apologize for the recent events and talk about how we can move forward.

Thank you,


 Mentioning that you want to apologize is crucial: It tells your coworker you don’t want to have a one-on-one just to attack him or her more.

Make Amends

During your meeting, try to be as calm and courteous as possible, and avoid re-hashing what happened.

You might want to start by saying, “I’m sorry that I…” and explaining where you fell short or acted poorly. Here’s where the notes you made earlier will come in handy.

If your coworker apologizes as well, great. But if he or she doesn’t, we suggest reminding yourself to be the bigger person and continue the conversation anyway. Getting mad because your coworker doesn’t feel like he or she’s in the wrong will negate all the progress you’ve made.

Finish by sharing what you’d like the relationship to look like going forward. You might say, “I’d love for us to be able to work on projects together,” or, “Ideally, we could give each other constructive feedback in meetings.”

Ask what your coworker would like out of the relationship as well. Together, you can establish some relationship goals.

About Signature Consultants, LLC

Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Signature Consultants was established in 1997 with a singular focus: to provide clients and consultants with superior staffing solutions. For the ninth consecutive year, Signature was voted as one of the “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” and is named the 15th Largest IT Staffing Firm in the United States (source: Staffing Industry Analysts). With 29 locations throughout North America, Signature annually deploys thousands of consultants to support, run, and manage their clients’ technology needs. Signature offers IT staffing, consulting, managed solutions, and direct placement services. For more information on the company, please visit https://www.sigconsult.com. Signature Consultants is the parent company to Hunter Hollis and Madison Gunn.

sspeet General