Peers are usually the persons in the company who have the same knowledge and expertise as you. They often come from a similar educational or professional background. They know what you know. However, why do we feel less sure of ourselves in front of our peers?
Why do we react negatively and consider like a personal attack when a peer has a more assertive or aggressive style or when simply has different conclusions from the same set of facts? We then start having negative self-talk and defensiveness by asking ourselves questions such as “Why didn’t I think of that?” and “That’ll never work anyway!”. In addition, a natural competitiveness arises between people at the same level in the organization generally competing for the same resources and promotions.
A negative relationship with peers can turn into a destructive cycle. In order to avoid this:
Search for common goals.
Proactively reach out for a common objective. Think of how you can add value. Try to support your peers in areas that you can influence. For instance, if customer service is crucial to you and your peers, discuss with them on how you can achieve it in the best way.
Establish trust and respect
To establish an environment of trust and respect with your peers:
- Do not put your peers on the spot. Make sure you engage and discuss with them any eventual issues or problems related to their work systems.
- Be a true professional. Try not to talk about your peers behind their backs and do not get involved in office gossips.
- Keep your commitments. Execute what you say you will do and make sure you deliver it on time.
- Resolve conflicts with urgency. Work on addressing conflicts with your peers as soon as possible because unresolved problems will hold back progress in relationship building and in ongoing projects.
- Make yourself available. Be available to listen, discuss, debate and strategize together with your peers. From time to time, try to have lunch together.
It is about how best you can work in cooperation together with your peers for the benefit of your organization.
The following approaches can help you collaborate with your peers:
- Seek clarity on shared goals, roles and responsibilities. Engage with your peers and discuss projects on which you work together. Be clear about the project goals.
- Negotiate fairly. Always put in mind that when negotiating for initiatives, budgets and resources, your organization needs come first, not wants.
- Be responsibly responsive: Respect the timing to respond to emails and voicemails. Consider your peers’ issues just as much priority as yours. Do not copy a big list of people on a long email chain with an intention of exposing fault or winning mindshare from others. In case you have a serious disagreement in a meeting, take the issue off line, in private.
Celebrate success. Recognize success as it comes and make it a habit to celebrate every milestone achieved. This attitude will sustain your momentum and motivation to go on further.
No blame game
Forget about blaming others. If something goes horribly wrong in projects or relationship with your peers, take a step back and review the situations under the following approach: Treat everything as a learning experience and focus on these three aspects: Take stock of what really happened; Capture what’s working and what’s not; Agree on what should be done differently moving forward.
Our objective is not to reduce the frequency with which we disagree with peers but to change how we feel about these conversations. Paradoxically, it is by moving further into the uncomfortable, through having courageous conversations and being more willing to say and hear a variety of opinions, that we increase our confidence when it comes to peers.