THE people you are most frequently with—your friends, your officemates, your significant other—all have an effect on you. They can influence your speech, your mannerisms, your behavior, and can even dictate your thoughts and emotions. So imagine how you will end up when you are with the wrong people all the time.
I am not a psychologist, but I have experienced firsthand how strongly people can affect each other, especially when they are together for most of their waking hours. For example, I have seen how I adversely affect my child’s mood when I’m particularly sad or cranky. At work, I remember my feelings of dread and foreboding every time I hear a former colleague’s voice or even just that person’s heels clicking as she walked in the office.
While you may not always be able to choose your teammates or the people you will have to regularly work with, there are ways to help shield yourself from the ill effects of the people who are not exactly right for you.
Get the right people on the bus
When hiring team members, make sure to not just look at technical competencies and credentials. Be more keen on “character hires”—they may not always be the best of the best when it comes to skills and competencies, but if they are of good character, it will be easier to work with them in the long run. You can train for skills, but you cannot teach character.
Also, make sure that your hires are a good fit for the culture that you have established or are trying to establish for your team. People who do not fit into your team culture will either leave after a short while or cause one too many headaches for you and your teammates. You do not need that kind of stress in your life.
Trust people, but not too much
When you feel that you have the right people on your team, it is easy to give your full trust to them. Should you do that though? Yes and no. Trust them to do the job that they are supposed to do. Trust that they can help you achieve your goals and your vision for your organization.
But do not trust that they will always be by your side. Not to be a pessimist, but most people are only after their own self-interest. And why not? People need to survive and thrive. Backed into a corner, even teammates you trust will choose to protect themselves. The same is most likely true for you, too. This is the reality.
Work life, personal life
When you spend a lot of time together, it is inevitable for some work relationships to evolve into friendships. I have my fair share of workmates-turned-friends, too, and I am still friends with many of them until now. On the flip side though, there are work relationships that also paved the way for some of the most horrific episodes in my life. Gaslighting, betrayal—I wish I were exaggerating.
The lesson I learned: it is okay to make friends, but make sure to choose wisely and to not wear your heart on your sleeve. The workplace is exactly that—a place to work. Friendship is not your primary objective there. Learn where to draw the line between the professional and the personal.
When hiring team members, choose those who can and will help you meet your vision and goals for your organization. If you do not have a say on the people you will be working with, keep the relationship entirely professional. Do not take things personally and do not take the relationship to the personal level—unless it naturally evolves that way and you really think that friendship is worth it.
For your wellbeing, both physical and mental, always choose to surround yourself with people who can add value to your life. This goes for both professional and personal relationships. Give the best version of yourself to the people who truly love you: your family, your loved ones, your true friends. Do not allow toxic work relationships to get the best of you.
In the end, the most important person to you is you.
PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the United Kingdom-based International Public Relations Association (Ipra), the world’s premier organization for PR professionals around the world. Abigail L. Ho-Torres is AVP and Head of Customer Experience of Maynilad Water Services, Inc. She spent more than a decade as a business journalist before making the leap to the corporate world.
We are devoting a special column each month to answer our readers’ questions about public relations. Please send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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