Mending a Relationship Breakdown

Man Getting Pie in the FaceConflict at work, whether between colleagues or with customers or suppliers, can sometimes end in a breakdown of the relationship.  You have two options:

1.  You can walk away
It’s safe, it’s easy, it’s a waste

2.  You can try to fix it
It’s hard, it has the possibility of failure, it can turn disaster into triumph

Your Choice

Which course you take towards managing the end stage of conflict is up to you.  Few would blame you if you were to walk away, but if you choose to try again, consider this: if the relationship has truly broken down, then you have little to lose, so everything to gain.

If you choose to try again, the Management Pocketblog offers you  process that you can follow.  The stronger the prior relationship, the better it can work.

Three Phases to Mending a Breakdown

Phase 1: Reality

If you decide to try to mend the relationship, the first phase is to understand what has happened.  To do this, there are three steps:

  1. Listen to each other
    When you decide to mend the breakdown, take it upon yourself to listen to the other person.
  2. Clarify the facts
    How do each of you perceive the situation, and what would each of you most like to achieve?
  3. Declare a breakdown
    You must end this phase by recognising that a breakdown has occurred and that, whether there is fault or not, both parties have participated and, therefore, both of you must engage if you want to mend it.

Phase 2: Commitment

Building commitment needs an openness to the situation, and a positive statement of intent from both parties.  Respect each other’s perceptions, and try to establish how the objective facts compare to these.  Then offer your commitment to whatever you are prepared to do, to mend the relationship.  When you have done that, ask what commitment the other person is prepared to make.

If your respective commitments complement each other, you have the basis for mending the relationship.

Phase 3: Progress

Now you are ready to make some progress.  Typically, there are three things to put in place:

  1. What’s missing?
    Work together to identify what information, processes, data, options, or solutions are missing, which you will need to mend the relationship fully.
  2. Plans
    Now make your plans for who will do what and when.  Re-iterate promises to honour your respective allocated roles.
  3. Review
    Follow-up with open and honest reviews of progress.  Be generous in recognising what positive steps the other person has taken towards your goal.

So here’s the deal

Mending a broken relationship is not always possible.  There must be a pre-existing strength to the relationship, and both parties must be eager to re-build.  But if these foundations are in place, then it can be done.  It may not be easy, but the results can be well worth the effort.

Management Pocketbooks you may enjoy

The Resolving Conflict Pocketbook has a range of valuable resources to help you understand and resolve conflict.  It also has interesting sections on bullying and harassment, and team conflict.

And if this is not enough for you, there is more than a pocketful of extra help from other Management Pocketbooks:.

For managers,

and, for trainers,

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