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I feel like with coworkers and also with human relationships there’s a “honeymoon phase” where you’re just happy to have landed the job, or found a great person to join a team or project, or made some interesting new friends.

Once you get used to the constant enthusiasm for how surprisingly well things have turned out, feeling lucky, you start taking things for granted, and due to close cooperation, constant interaction, and a degree of mutual dependence, this is when negativity may rise up, and in some ways, it’s worse because you are already much more closely intertwined with the person/thing, so it is no longer a low investment of effort to simply avoid, withdraw, not initiate engagement, etc.

I feel like in these moments there could be some really good advice for making sure not to escalate small annoyances or grievances that may come up, but I’m not sure.

Maybe it could be as simple as taking a time-out from that person until you feel tension dissipates. Naturally over time you gain a better understanding of them. You may eventually be ready to re-engage. When that happens your bond may have gotten better, since you now understand a deeper level of cooperation better.

The only advice I can think of is like, just explicitly stating you need to disengage for a bit. I can’t think of a more positive way to phrase this than “needing to take a time-out”.

Is there any other advice on this?

I do not necessarily believe in sort of labored structured conversations about minor incidents really, they can actually reinforce a situation rather than letting it slide past and evaporate.

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    I'm struggling to understand what types of systematic patterns can lead to coworker relationships being strained. Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 13:16
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    "..and due to close cooperation, constant interaction, and a degree of mutual dependence, this is when negativity may rise up.." sounds quite hypothetical to me and this question might be better placed on Interpersonal Skills, because it's definitely not exclusive to a work-place environment..
    – iLuvLogix
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 13:35
  • @iLuvLogix except that any question like this on IPS would be closed immediately.
    – DaveG
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 19:25

1 Answer 1

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I think you are overthinking things.

Ultimately, you are paid to do work, and work in a collaborative manner with others.

Despite what some "team coaches" say, you don't need to lunch together, you don't need to have Friday drinks together, and you don't need to be friends.

What you do need is respect, and an to find the level of engagement that you and your co-workers find appropriate. Sometimes what you find an appropriate level may conflict with the prevailing culture of an organisation. In which case things get interesting.

It is not sufficient to take a "time-out" from your colleagues. You need to work together after all. Regardless of whatever emotional situation you somehow find yourself in, you need to be professional.

So my recommendation is to not become too emotionally invested in your coworkers, especially if it's going to lead to emotional burn out.

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