To Improve Work Relationships, Focus on the “Micro”

Working relationships between teammates can be delicate matters. In a recent article published by the Harvard Business Review, authors and researchers Kerry Roberts Gibson and Beth Schinoff explore how small things can have a big impact on work relationships.

Gibson has done significant research on a type of phenomenon called “micromoves”—these are “small actions or behaviors that seem inconsequential in the moment but affect how we relate to one another.” Though there are a wide variety of micromoves, Gibson’s research indicates that these actions generally act to either bring people together or push them apart.

In order to help improve workplace relationships, Gibson and Schinoff developed five guiding principles for positive micromoves:

  1. Make a conscious effort to consider your teammate’s point of view, especially when you face awkward situations or disagreements.
  2. Keep in mind that micromoves are often unintentional—don’t read too much into your colleagues’ behavior.
  3. Take a step back and consider the big picture, rather than getting tied up in your own perspective.
  4. Use journaling as a tool to learn about your patterns and improve upon your micromoves.
  5. Keep in mind that a bad micromove does more damage than one good micromove can repair. If you harm a relationship, expect to carry out as many as six good micromoves in order to fix the situation.

For more details, read the article in full at the Harvard Business Review.