Skip to main content
The M Dash

Live with purpose.

8 Women Share Their Biggest Relationship Breakthroughs at Work

December 21, 2018 | Filed in: Your Career

Say it with us: building a successful career is all about relationships. Most experts agree that the strength and quality of your relationships shape your career trajectory above almost all other factors. Inspired by this idea, we asked eight professional women to reflect on their biggest relationship breakthroughs at work this year. Here’s what they told us. 

1. “I boosted an employee’s confidence.”

“As women, we often believe we should have 100 percent of the answers or skills to be successful, whereas men feel they need only about 60 percent of the same to succeed. I manage a female employee who came to IT this year from academia. She’s an amazing communicator and works well with others. But she wasn’t confident in her technical skills and wasn’t sure about her place on the team. Over the past year, I have spent significant time coaching her to think differently. She has risen to the occasion when I’ve placed her on projects that stretched her beyond her comfort zone, and learned a key lesson: All we can do to be successful is move forward with what we have today—we’ll learn the rest along the way.”

—Cheryl, Data Analytics Manager

2. “I turned around a toxic relationship.”

“For over a year, I dreaded going to meetings with one of my peers and would do my best to avoid him. At the end of 2017, we were both promoted into roles where we would have to work more closely together. He approached me with humility and asked for honest feedback, and I genuinely tried to help. When we both reframed our intentions, we were able to bring our relationship to a much better place. The person I never wanted to talk to now sends me text messages about work and calls me on his way into the office. And I’ve seen the trickle-down effect: our teams have better relationships, too. This has been one of the hardest years in my career, but I’ve learned that no relationship is static—they all require work and can improve.”

Katie, Hotel Chief Financial Officer

Left: the Lorna shirt, the Mejia pant, the Wide Strap belt, and the Vivara necklace. Right: the Dietrich jacket.

3. “I’m growing my relationships at the top.”

“I joined a new company recently and am focusing on how to build my brand within the organization and get to know the leadership team better. This year, I want to nurture those relationships so that I’ll be considered for additional roles within the company. That might mean asking a top executive for assistance with a client meeting, or requesting that they sit in on a brainstorming phone call. It does take extra effort, but whenever I’ve done this in the past, I’ve seen the benefit.” 

Jennifer, Healthcare Sales and Marketing Executive

4. “I built trust with my new team.”

“I’ve worked for the same client in the same role for two years, but this is my third go-around with a new team. I’ve learned that in the beginning, it’s about investing in these new relationships. In the first 30 to 90 days, I have to build trust so that the team recognizes that I’m reliable and can deliver on the results I’ve promised. I do that by openly communicating, establishing clear expectations and goals, and making sure that I meet those goals. With the last team I worked with, I built a great rapport—so it wasn’t necessary to check in until I was ready to deliver the final product. Now I’m updating the new team regularly and sending them my work while it’s in process. Also, I really believe in face time. I work offsite, but when you’re establishing new relationships, there’s nothing like going into the office.”

Ellen, Business Consultant


Left: the Sabrina top and the Noho skirt. Right: the Carson blazer.

5. “I’m building self-confidence in my work relationships.”

“Last January, I started a new job, and I’m the only woman on my team and the only person without prior banking experience. I had a lot to learn and some awkwardness to overcome, so my goal for the new year is to be more confident in my relationships with my colleagues. A lot of women in my office gravitate to one another and develop better friendships with each other than they do with their male colleagues, but I’d like to work on developing more genuine friendships with both the men and women I work with. I’ve started reading books like Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, and Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, and listening to podcasts like How I Built This. As cliché as it might sound, I’ve learned a lot about self-confidence from those books, and have new ideas to try out in the coming year.”

Alex, Investment Banker

6. “I worked through a difficult period with an employee.”

“Managing people is a lot like parenting. Everyone responds differently, so sometimes you need to manage differently. I had a breakthrough this year with our new hire for Creative Director, a young, talented designer. My partner and I were impressed by what he was delivering, but he became defensive when questions arose around his work. Unfortunately, this sometimes happened in front of clients. I approached him to try to work through why this was happening. It became clear that he was insecure about his business acumen, so he got nervous presenting his designs. I told him that we had full confidence in his work and that we all agreed he was meeting the right milestones. After our talk, he had a complete change in attitude. He realized that when clients and coworkers asked questions, they were trying to understand how he arrived at his final design. They only wanted him to stand behind his work—it was nothing personal. I learned that when you reinforce that you trust and support your employees, you empower them and get better results.”

Lisa, Digital Agency Business Owner

Left: the Rebecca jacket, the Brie sweater, the Costello pant, and the Wide Strap belt. Right: the Angela dress and the Morandi sweater.

7. “I teamed up with a coworker to make my own work stronger.”

“Over the past few years, I was the sole contact at my company for an important client.  There were many opportunities to innovate and expand our services, but I was spread too thin. Early in 2018, I connected with someone on my team who I had never worked with before, and who had a completely different skill set than me. After working on a few projects together, I discussed my client with her and ultimately brought her into several important conversations with them. Her understanding of our company and her creativity, combined with my understanding of the client’s needs and the category, enabled us to identify several new opportunities for the client this year, growing their business and ours.”

Wanda, Marketing Consultant

8. “I tuned out a colleague’s negativity.”

“We have 30 employees and roughly 40 vendors that we work with, and my job is to have a close, personal relationship with each of these people. The biggest challenge I face is negativity. By nature, I am a positive person. When a coworker or vendor is negative, I tend to internalize it, and it seeps into other areas of my work and personal life. This year, I finally had enough: Even though we repeatedly told a vendor to invest in product development, refresh their line, and give their sales reps a new product, the company’s sales continued to decline. The vendor blamed us, criticizing me personally and taking no responsibility. It eventually dawned on me that regardless of the fate of that particular relationship, our company would still survive. I made a conscious decision to detach myself from the situation, understanding that I could control my response even if I couldn’t remove myself from the relationship. Now that I make that daily choice to not let it get to me, work is much more enjoyable!”

Lindsay, President of a Wholesale Gift Sales Agency