Employment News

April 22, 2009

Workwise: Informal partnerships for a new workplace

Developing informal partnerships at work is an emerging trend. While managementmight advocate specific ones, it's possible for you to form them on your own.

Philip Berry, president of Philip Berry Associates L.L.C., a human capital andemployment consulting firm in New York City, defines these as relationships of "sharedunderstanding, with both parties working toward the same goals and objectives." By increasingproductivity and motivation, they have a major impact.


When you're feeling isolated in a large or small company, Berry points out, building thesepartnerships on your own will bring richness to your work, a sense of "joint destiny," with somemeaningful benefits:

  • feeling that you've rejoined the human community;
  • knowing that people are helping you rather than working against you;
  • noticing that other people understand, support and validate your work; and
  • working more easily, which elevates your mood.As Berry puts it, "You'll stop thinking that you're rolling water uphill."

    The fact that this is a tall order doesn't make it impossible to achieve. You can form theseties if you choose the best people and you follow several steps. The first has to do with findingthe partner.

    You need a good match, a person whose stake in the shared objective is as great as yours.You'll be able to spot the person when you see "how well (you) 'click' and appreciate the other'scontributions," says Helen Cooke, managing director of Cooke Consulting Group, L.L.C., inHaddon Heights, N.J.

    "To cultivate successful partnerships," she continues, "you must make time to inquire(without being invasive) about the other person. This doesn't require a major time commitmentbut to work well, it does require genuine interest in the other person -- his or her likes anddislikes and goals. Begin to demonstrate you care by spending two minutes asking the otherperson about his or her weekend before launching into your Monday morning meeting agenda."She adds that you must get outside of yourself by empathizing with the other person.

    Once you've identified a good potential partner, you can build this relationship if youunderstand that "relationships are built on meeting each other's needs," states Drew McLellan ofMcLellan Marketing Group Inc., in Des Moines, Ia. "Find ways to let the person know thatyou're paying attention and you care. On occasion, make a grand gesture, such as staying late tothem with a project or in smoothing over a mistake with the boss." Express your thanks often andbe willing to forgive (genuinely) when the person makes a mistake." These steps will build trust,an essential element in informal partnerships.

    Some simple and not-so-simple steps will build a basic, not necessarily formal, structurethat allows you to communicate effectively. That is critical in this relationship, because youmight not always view a situation the same way. Berry recommends a regular "expectationexchange" whereby you agree to meet in person, communicate by telephone or write a memosummarizing progress. He says that this is essential to facilitating the work, because it develops acomfort level that encourages openness.

    If you don't give each other feedback and handle conflicts, you may well jeopardize therelationship. "Sometimes individuals will ignore disagreements or not tell the other party what'son their mind," he explains. "If one has given the other a proposal and the other party didn't likeit," there may be hurt feelings. Because of them, there may be a withdrawal from the relationship.

    Informal partnerships build open communication and trust to meet shared goals andobjectives. The effort enriches your work while promoting well-being in the workplace.

    Dr. Mildred L. Culp welcomes your questions at culp@workwise.net. Copyright 2009 Passage Media.

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