I graduated from Library School ready to take on the world in my new life as a professional librarian. I got a job 2 ½ months after graduating and I was doing awesome. I was great at my job, patrons and coworkers respected me, my bosses appreciated me, and everything was going according to my master plan. Then reality set in, I was good at my job but I didn’t have the relationships with my coworkers that I thought I had. They respected me but they didn’t really know or trust me. When I figured this out, I was crushed, but I came realize (after a lot of brooding) that if I didn’t have the trust and faith of my coworkers then I didn’t have anything. If you’re in a similar situation, or know someone who is, here are my tips for fixing your relationships at work even if it’s your own fault.
- Figure out what your goals are:
- Start with 1-2 goals. Any more than that and you are bound to be overwhelmed. Personal change is hard, so let yourself be successful and start small.
- Focus on yourself: with any personal change, it has to be something you can control. If your goal requires that someone else change their behavior, then it won’t work.
- Examples might include meetings, one on one situations, or office drop-bys.
- Figure out what triggers you. I found out that lack of sleep, stress, busyness, lack of caffeine, and generally not paying attention were the times I messed up.
- But first: Never apologize if you don’t mean it. People will pick up on your insincerity. To change you have to mean it.
- Tell them about your goals and explain you want to have a better relationship.
- Find coworkers that you have a good relationship or a trusted supervisor/mentor.
- Ask them to tell you when you aren’t meeting your goals.
- Give them permission to be really honest with you and then don’t bite their heads off when they do it.
- Any goal that requires change is hard. Behaviors (good and bad) are built off of life experiences so failure is inevitable.
- Talk to your allies and try again.
Finally, I offer this exchange between James Spader and Jane Lynch from Lynch’s memoir Happy Accidents which helps me on days when I don’t feel particularly like changing:
James Spader and I had some really lovely talks, and I found him to be extremely smart and deeply thoughtful. Though I never saw him be anything but courteous to everyone on that set, I could sense that he was not a man who suffered fools. Almost as if explaining what I was thinking, he offered this: ‘A long time ago I asked myself, do I want to be right or do I want to be kind? I opted for kind.’ This little piece of wisdom reverberated through my occasionally bitchy self. (p. 218)
I have never regretted trying to change, only the times when I didn’t.
Morgan Sohl is the Reference Librarian at the Driftwood Public Library in Lincoln City, Oregon. Say hi on Google +.