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Book by DU Professor Examines Ways to Improve Workplace Relationships

Most of us spend so much time at work that coworkers become like family members. That means a workplace, like any family, can feel the friction created when personalities, values and work styles clash. Stress, burnout, mental health issues, decreased job satisfaction, and cynicism all can result from strained workplace relationships. So how do you make your work day productive, despite these differences with some coworkers?Discussions of “troublesome others” at work, plus tactics for reframing relationships and changing daily interactions are provided by Problematic Relationships in the Workplace, an academic study co-edited by Dr. Janie M. Fritz, associate professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Duquesne University.

Fritz and co-author Becky L. Omdhal, professor of communication, writing and the arts at Metropolitan State University, offer strategies to answer these workplace challenges.

Though the popular press has tried to tackle the subject through anecdotes and private research, Fritz had found academic treatment of these critical workplace issues lacking.  She and Omdhal conducted their own research and gathered the work-related research of others into one source in case-study format. “This area needed good, solid academic research in the field,” Fritz said. “Our American businesses could be in trouble because of these workplace disruptions.”

Some findings and suggestions include:

  • The qualities of troublesome workers have remained the same over a five- to seven-year period, but the qualities attributed to troublesome bosses have changed.
  • Workers are urged to give others the benefit of doubt on ambiguous information. It’s less disruptive to think that coworkers are going to lunch without you because they’re working on a project together, not because they don’t like you.
  • Workplace misconduct—from simple rudeness to sexual harassment—is personally and professionally costly, and can reduce employee loyalty and job effort. While revenge might be a common reaction, the book promotes forgiveness at the office, just as other experts have recommended forgiveness as a means of healing personal lives.

“The goal of this book was to get out information about these very key topics that affect everyone in the workplace, literally millions of people,” Fritz said. The editors wanted to help provide answers based upon careful research, particularly studies of how to manage bad relationships. “We can use this information to help people work more productively, despite their dislike for some coworkers,” she said. “We want to make work life better. We want to reframe how we focus on workplace relationships.”

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.