I spend most of my time working which for me involves dealing with people and machines all day. The machines are easy, predictable, and obedient creations that do exactly what they are told. People are often quite the opposite. In People, Relationships, and Trust I already wrote about trust which is just as critical in the workplace. Here are a few further thoughts on people that we meet at work.
I have worked with a few hundred people over my working career so far. Over the years, these relationships and actually all my business relationships seem to have ended up in two groups: 1) I still keep in touch and am happy to hear from them and 2) I have lost contact and am ambivalent if hear from them. How would you feel if you came across someone with whom you had worked / done business years after your transaction? Notice the word “transaction.” Transformational relationships do not take place often at work but these can be enormously beneficial for both sides of the relationship. Ideally, all work-based relationships would be positive, sincere, and transformational but why do we end up with the second group instead?
If everyone strived to be in the first group, our workplaces would be much more enjoyable places. I feel that some people simply do not care or are unaware of the long-term implications of their actions. Others are so caught up in pleasing someone (their boss for example) that they ignore the others. Many are working to make money or fulfill some other personal cause and the rest of us are either helping them or hurting them with their agendas. Whatever the case may be, it seems that despite all my efforts, making lifelong positive workplace originated relationships has not always been possible. However, I do not get discouraged by this because many relationships with folks from past assignments are still so enjoyable. When I used to work as a consultant, I worked with a number of customer teams. It is still so nice to hear from them and to remember our challenges and work together. I suggest that you also try to view all your business and work relationships as seedlings for possible lifelong friendships.
Some organizations are more people oriented while others have cultures that either encourage personal interaction or discourage it. Regardless of the business environment, we should get to know and understand people separately from the environment in which we meet. Perhaps, this will help us realize that we all have much more in common. The golden rule about treating others the way we want to be treated applies in business relationships just as it applies in all other relationships. Almost everyone I met who was too focused on cornering resources at the expense of relationships or becoming indispensable at the expense of others, in my experience ended up departing or become marginalized over time. In work, I suggest that you focus on getting your job done and making as many lifelong relationships as possible. The rest will take care of itself.