The aptly-titled new book by Dr. Karen L. Rancourt, “It’s All About Relationships,” is a must-read for better relationships at work and at home. Rancourt is a management consultant specializing in change management and organizational and leadership development and earned her doctorate in early childhood education and human behavior. This thorough but accessible book contains three elements that are particularly useful:
- Specific frameworks that give structure to otherwise amorphous concepts (e.g., want-to v. have-to relationships, on-stage v. off-stage persona, types of expectations);
- helpful checklists (e.g., 15 building blocks of relationships, empowering phrases); and
- detailed examples of real-life professional and personal situations, including walking the reader through the different choices at the cross-roads so you can practice your own decision-making.
Here are just three of my favorite takeaways on the professional relationship front:
You don’t have to be friends with everyone you work with. Embrace “have-to” relationships for what they are – functioning, but not emotionally close
When participating in a have-to relationship, it is in your best interests for this relationship to be smooth and comfortable in a pragmatic sense. That is, you participate in the relationship in a practical and functional way: you are polite and pleasant even if you dislike or don’t really care about the other person. The main goal of a have-to relationship is to create and maintain civility and cordiality, often because someone you do care about has enlisted you to do so, or simply because it is in your best interest. Once the practicality of have-to relationships is understood, participating in them reduces or eliminates resentment and hard feelings: have-to relationships can become guilt-free and easily manageable. – Dr. Karen L. Rancourt, from “It’s All About Relationships”
If you’re asked by a colleague to keep a secret, this might not be a smart professional move, depending on the secret. Ask these two questions instead:
1 – Why do you want me to have information that you do not want me to share with anyone? 2 – How is my having this information of value to me? – Dr. Karen L. Rancourt, from “It’s All About Relationships”
To deal with communication bullies, try these empowering phrases:
1 – Express confusion and request clarity: “I am confused. I thought we were brainstorming, but this feels more like ‘brainstomping.’Here’s what I thought we were we trying to accomplish here.” 2 – Claim your verbal space: “Excuse me. I didn’t finish what I was saying.” 3 – Claim your physical space by putting up a hand in a stop motion, leaning a bit forward, and saying, “Hang on. I’m almost done.” 4 – Raise a question: “What you just said seemed disrespectful. Did you mean to be disrespectful to me with that comment?” – Dr. Karen L. Rancourt, from “It’s All About Relationships”
Additional sticky workplace situations shared in the book include the colleague who is frequently late with work, the boss who reneges on a job offer, the boss who doesn’t give advance notice on requests for reports or new ideas, and age-old work/ life balance questions, such as sticking it out at a job you don’t love in order to support a family or deciding between extra work and commitments at home. The book provides guidance on how to navigate these situations while staying true to your own feelings and values.
I have followed Rancourt’s work for years through her relationship blog, Ask Dr. Gramma Karen. I’m not a grandparent, but I find the real-life scenarios and coaching from Rancourt very helpful for relating and communicating at all levels, not just grandparent-related or even family-related. I was excited to feature her new book, not just because I truly believe this book will help my readers on the career front, but also because I’m a longtime fan.
Bonus Book Tip
I also decided to feature this book because it’s a new work in a decades-long career, so a perfect example of not slowing down in late career. I get a lot of anxious reader mail around navigating career at age 50’s, 60’s and beyond. One of my favorite tips for building confidence is to look for success stories – in this case, people who have continued to flourish in late career. Rancourt is one example. You can see many more examples in Chris Farrell’s new book, Purpose and A Paycheck: Finding Meaning, Money, And Happiness In The Second Half Of Life.