Peer and Work Relationships

Navigating peer and work relationships is quite similar to any other type of relationship and the therapy should reflect that as well. Work nowadays appears to be less about making money and more about making meaning, especially with those with whom we work. In other words, we are affected by the people around us, and the work environment is no different.

Not surprisingly, when a situation affects us deeply, it’s because it resonates with something we might have experienced before, as in something from our own past or trauma that can be triggered.

We impact others with our words and actions and we, too, are impacted by the words and actions of others. To be successful in the workplace, we need to know how to manage our boundaries. It doesn’t mean that we should stop interacting with other employees. Maintaining boundaries simply means we need to be mindful of whom we let into our physical and psychological space.

Peers differ in their needs, beliefs, values, knowledge and expertise. Getting too deep into anyone’s space can lead to difference in opinions which can cause conflicts among employees.

Once we know what causes the problem, we have to look at what maintains it. It’s a matter of looking at where relationships break down and learning to communicate in a way that feels as though structural repairs are being made to build a stronger foundation rather than patching over small cracks. As couples therapy researcher Howard Markman has defined, there are hidden dimensions at play underneath the majority of interpersonal issues, whether at home or at work.

As with any relationship, being able to acknowledge, validate, and empathize with others, as well as take responsibility for our actions, facilitates stronger connections and makes for positive work environments. A simple “I can see where you’re coming from” can be deeply validating. Once we take responsibility for our part, others can do the same.