“Let’s have a coffee to discuss it.” How many times has such a simple sentence marked the beginning of the end of a nascent conflict between colleagues? The benefits of a candid and open one-on-one conversation have long been proven.

But what can you do when your relationship with a co-worker based a couple of hundred miles away begins to sour?

“Absent non-verbal cues, it’s often difficult to gauge how your relationship
is going. If something does start to derail your relationship, you don’t have
the benefit of informal office interactions to build rapport and re-establish trust. Small irritants that aren’t addressed can fester into resentment and
eventually impact your work.”

– Liane Davey, Harvard Business Review

Opening the lines of communication

It is, therefore, crucial to quickly “deliver feedback that will get the relationship back on track”, according to author Liane Davey. In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, she provides a series of invaluable tips to help resolve conflicts and establish a better rapport with remote colleagues.

In summary, she recommends that employees in this situation:

  • contact their teammate and ask them to take the time to talk to address the professional relationship;
  • try to have a video chat instead of just a phone conversation, if possible;
  • explain to the coworker what is bothersome about their behavior, without passing judgment;
  • ask open-ended questions that initiate dialogue and help understand each other’s perceptions;
  • mention both the things they’re thinking and the things they’re feeling;
  • develop an action plan at the end of the conversation;
  • document the discussion in writing.

There is no foolproof method for establishing a friction-free working relationship with a remote colleague, but initiating a frank and open dialogue is definitely a step in the right direction.

SOURCE:  Harvard Business Review

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