Relationship killers: 10 tips for better relationships at work

After the fellow pigs and the mind readers, this is my third post on the subject of relationships in the job. Good relationships are the basis for working together successfully in a team. For me, good leadership means effective relationship management. We are not unemotional work machines that stubbornly work through processes according to scheme F, but people who interact with other people. But at work, it sometimes gives the impression that many bosses and also their employees are blind to the sheer focus on the matter when it comes to creating friendly, professional relationships. I looked at the 25 biggest relationship killers in private life and was amazed at how much they all apply to work life.

Relationships at Work | Workplace Relationship Policy | HR Solutions

25 private relationship killers that can also be transferred to the job

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This is a relationship killer, especially in strictly hierarchical companies. The employee who goes to the boss-boss, complains about his boss or wants to push through his interests there. The other direction is also known: the boss-boss, who approaches the employees directly and thus skips a management level. Think carefully about the cases in which it is important and right to skip a hierarchy level. Otherwise: Make it clear that and why you are going to do this in order not to damage the love triangle.


Anyone who only looks to their own advantage or who goes over dead bodies for their own career not only makes themselves unpopular with colleagues but also has a difficult position as a manager in the long term. Cooperation is taking and giving based on jointly defined goals. With their behavior, egoists risk being ridiculed, fought against, or even completely excluded.

Wrong expectations

From my experience working with managers, unclear expectations are one of the most common problem areas in cooperation: employees who do not know what their boss expects from them and, conversely, managers who do not see what their employees are for good leadership and who Need to get things done. Expectations should be clearly communicated in all directions. That makes working together much more relaxed.


Not the nice way. But all too often the following applies: “I know what I am not allowed to know and I have you in my hands.” Whether affairs, hushed up mistakes, or other secrets – what could harm your own career is not allowed to come to light. Those who use such information for their own benefit may quickly make it up the career ladder, but in the end, blackmailers often go online, fail because of their inadequate professional qualifications, and fall on their feet.

Lack of loyalty

The flag in the wind or the boss who does not provide any backing. Loyalty connects people. If it is missing for a long time, this often also means a break in the relationship. It is particularly important for managers to consciously pay attention to loyalty to their employees, but still position themselves well in their sandwich position. Because employees also derive justice from loyalty. In a group of colleagues, loyalty often means helpfulness and solidarity.


Anyone who is looking for a new employer in an ongoing employment relationship and even conducts job interviews should not be caught. Before cheating, it is better to discuss what is bothering you with your current employer. Often there are many more adjustments than you think that making a change unnecessary. And if after such a conversation you secretly sniff a strange corporate air and it comes out, then it doesn’t hit your boss out of the blue.

Disrespectful behavior

Certain manners and rules of mutual respect also apply in the job. They don’t believe the stories I hear about filthy behavior in the workplace and read in personal emails from affected employees. Disrespect is behavior that does not take place on an equal footing and expresses: “I am better than you and you are worth nothing!” Respect and appreciation are the basic formula for good relationships – at work and, of course, in private.

A dispute over everyday issues

It’s annoying when you get back at home every three days to get a fight about who’s taking the trash, right? There are also tons of such everyday topics in everyday office life. Anyone who texts their colleagues or even the boss with it all the time has to reckon with the you-annoying-receipt at some point. Better clarify it once and agree on a rule that both can live with – and then it’s quiet.

Routine and boredom

If the butterflies in your stomach have evaporated in a fresh partnership, this is often the beginning of boredom. The same rituals every day – only together. Boredom at work, that’s what I wrote about here and it’s one of the most read and commented articles on the blog. Those who are bored leave. Employees and managers should discuss what they can do about boredom to keep the relationship fresh on the job.

Sit out problems

Depending on the company’s error culture, this is very popular. Sit out until problems vanish by themselves because they are no longer relevant or someone else has done it. That is neither collegial nor economical for the company. Here, too, clarity and the active search for solutions is the best solution in most cases.

Cover up errors

The main thing is that your own vest stays white. Sometimes I think employees spend more time covering up bugs than working on solutions. You construct watertight alibis and are a master in documenting long mail traffic as evidence. But if the boss finds out, the conflict threatens. And in many cases, this behavior is also a relationship killer with colleagues.


Particularly popular among female colleagues. “Why is Ms. Muller allowed to travel with the boss and I’m not?!” Jealousy in the partnership leads to control behavior and is – exaggerated – often the trigger for arguments. Even at work, both parties should consider objectively what the reasons for the jealousy are and clarify it.

Be resentful

If the boss tells his employee the mistake from a year ago every week, then at some point it gets annoying. Those who hold grudges hold back with their thoughts in the past, calculate up, and keep working on a topic that has obviously not yet been clarified. To look to the future with colleagues, you (both) should clarify the matter and decide to finally put it in the files.

Too much closeness or tightness

Anyone who hangs like a burdock on their partner’s skirt at home may also follow their employees or colleagues at every turn at work. Too much closeness in the job narrows. Many employees want a certain amount of leeway in thinking and acting. Together in the team and with the manager, determine how close you are and what leeway you need yourself to do a good job.

Lack of engagement

Anyone who sucks in front of the telly with a bottle of beer on the sofa every evening will at some point feel a headwind in the relationship. If you just sit back in your job, let others do it, and show no initiative of your own, you may be fed through in certain companies, but at some point, your colleagues here to get on the roof because of unjust behavior or the boss demands more performance.

Isolation or Distance

Most jobs live from the interaction of people. This will become even more important in the future. Those who keep isolating themselves from the group run the risk of not only losing touch concerning content but also of being no longer noticed by colleagues and managers. Those who isolate themselves no longer invest in cultivating relationships.


A perfectly developed discipline in many companies. And blame is often followed by justification. A ping pong game that not only regularly leaves thick air, but is also extremely unproductive. A good error culture, on the other hand, gets by without accusations and justifications.

Lack of recognition

How is it for you in a partnership when your loved one does not see what you are doing around the house and does not at least tell you from time to time how great you are? Lack of recognition in the job is the most common reason why employees show their boss the red card and leave. A relationship killer that is especially true at work, because self-realization and recognition were the most important values ​​for a career in my study.

Break agreements

This is especially frustrating for employees. The boss, who promised them the raise in the last conversation, but now backs down and even blames it on the personnel manager. And the same applies to employees: if you often promise something to your superior but then cannot keep it, you endanger your credibility and thus the good relationship.


“You’re always doing it all wrong!” Such generalizations are attacks that the person concerned often takes personally. As a rule, they are factually incorrect and serve (consciously or unconsciously) to pee on the other person’s leg. It is easy for many bosses to demonstrate the power and exert pressure in this way. But because there is a lack of clarity, the employee cannot do anything with it and, depending on the type, additionally distances or confronts the personal injury. Not good for the relationship!


“Ms. Meier, YOU should have known that!” Accusations in combination with generalizations are particularly common. Such an accusation is quickly said and affects. But the same applies here as with the blame: It does not take both sides in the business one step further, but only burdens the personal relationship.

Don’t make decisions

Many employees complain in my coaching about the fact that their bosses don’t make decisions. “That’s why he’s boss!” I hear a lot. Yes, if nobody in the company makes decisions anymore out of fear of the consequences, then it drives the employees on the lower hierarchical levels especially crazy because they lack the clarity of their work. The result: at some point, they no longer take their managers seriously and the brave among them just do their own thing.

No time for each other

You also know this from private relationships, even if only from friends. Maintaining good relationships takes time. The boss who rushes from meeting to meeting every day and has no more time left for his team runs the risk of damaging the relationship here too. The motto here is “Get out of the day-to-day business!” And actively create space for more time to maintain relationships at work.

The love of money

“Opinions differ on money,” they say. Even if the money in the job is no longer the number one motivator for many employees today, it remains an issue that has a major impact on relationships in working life. The colleague who earns more but works less. The boss who promises the rise but doesn’t implement it. Missed promotion for the third year in a row. Money has a lot to do with a sense of justice, which is very important for collegial relationships.

Poor personal hygiene

A minimum level of hygiene, which is important for most of us for an intimate relationship in a partnership, also plays a major role in our job. Especially where people have to work together in a confined space. In open-plan offices, in medical practices, or a narrow two-person office. Smelly coworkers can be a problem and ruin the relationship. Because many employees are unsure how to deal with it and tend to distance themselves from the stinker than to point it out.

10 tips for good relationships at work

The relationship is the good line between two people. It doesn’t matter whether they get into bed with each other or are just colleagues at work.

Good relationships can cope with a solid argument or an announcement from the boss. Because both sides are clear: We may clash on the matter, but our personal relationship is so strong that it can endure or is even strengthened by it.

However, if the relationship is already cracking, then the slightest prick is often enough to break off contacts, switch to confrontation, do duty at work, or even give notice of termination.

What strengthens the relationship in private life can also be applied to the job. Here are 10 tips that you as a manager and also as an employee can do to maintain a good professional relationship with your boss and colleagues:

  1. Show real interest and the honest signal “You are important to me!”
  2. Create a sense of togetherness between boss and employee or in a team.
  3. Accept weaknesses or mistakes to recognize the positive again.
  4. Clarify mutual expectations and requirements.
  5. Create rules as far as it makes sense and shows consistency in action.
  6. Consciously breakthrough established ways of thinking and behaving.
  7. Try to understand each other’s worldviews, values ​, and goals.
  8. Take time for each other and also listen actively.
  9. Look for solutions together, if necessary with the participation of neutral third parties.
  10. Don’t lose sight of your own needs and values.

And what to do if the relationship is permanently disrupted? What if the trust is so damaged that one or both sides see no chance of getting the relationship back on its feet? Just as the separation or divorce is a liberating and correct step for many couples in private, the same applies in the job: Better to separate from each other than endure permanently bad relationships.