Bennis Inc. | How to Repair a Broken Business Relationship
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How to Repair a Broken Business Relationship

How to Repair a Broken Business Relationship

bridge repairsA while back I wrote the blog Revealing Character Through Communication where I examined the issue of unprofessional communication. This topic sparked a lot of discussion and ultimately begged this question, “When unprofessional communication damages a relationship, how do you go about fixing it?” Whether this is a question you’re used to facing head on or one you’d rather avoid at any cost, I’ve found several key steps that help to quickly resolve this uncomfortable situation. For this week’s blog, I hope to close the loop on the topic of unprofessional communication and give you a working blueprint for how you can appropriately address a strained business relationship.

Look for the signs

A broken relationship can center on a single event, but most commonly it is compounded by several other events that aggravate the negative feelings even further. Be aware of the early signs of a strained relationship. Look for changes in communication, tone or willingness to help. These are all red flags that something has changed. The sooner you can address the breakdown in communication, the more likely the relationship is to fully recover. Some signs are quite obvious and if this is the case, consider yourself lucky.  Other signs present themselves passive aggressively and require a keener sense to identify. For example, a lag in response time, short answers or an overly negative tone are passive aggressive signs of strained business communication. If any of these signs persist for a period of time or cannot be explained by another life event, it’s time to address the situation.

Acknowledge that something is wrong

The next step is to face the problem head on. You must clearly address your concern with the person in a professional and non-accusatory way. If you’re not sure of what event could have initiated the breakdown in communication, begin with a question to break the ice. “Did I do or say something to upset you?” On the other hand, if you are aware of the event that strained the relationship, address this with a direct statement. “I realize that the last time we spoke I may have come across ungrateful for your work.” In either case, be sure what you’re saying is sincere. Even the slightest hint of sarcasm or aggression can sour the best intentions. Once you’ve acknowledged the breakdown, the next step is to take action.

Choose to terminate or repair

This step is a critical one. Most often our instinct is to patch up a damaged relationship as quickly as possible. In many cases this is the right course of action; however, it’s important to be open to the fact that a relationship may not be worth repairing. There are many factors to consider, among the most important are how much do you value this relationship and is it essential to the success of your business. If you determine that this is a relationship you must repair, move forward immediately by first offering an apology and then taking the appropriate actions to right the wrongs.

Don’t walk on eggshells

Once you establish a resolution and begin to move forward, don’t allow the awkwardness that was once there to linger. The best way to dissolve any residual feelings of hurt is to treat the situation normally again. Don’t walk on eggshells around each other as this will only draw more attention to the negative situation that has since been resolved. Instead, treat each other kindly just as you would anyone else – no more, no less.

Have you ever had to repair a broken business relationship? What were some key steps you took to accomplish this professionally? Share your opinion and questions by commenting below!

Stephanie Shirley

stephanie@bennisinc.com