Cut Yourself Some Slack: You can’t ‘fix’ every relationship

Not Every Relationship is 'fixable'

Not Every Relationship is ‘fixable’











“If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive, do you think ghosts will do it after?”


I recently met a guy for lunch. A former client, he wanted to talk about a potential opportunity in a company where he was applying or a job. I happen to know the company reasonably well and was able to fill in some of the blanks. So far, so normal. But his demeanor was interesting. Normally upbeat, bullish even, he was having trouble dealing with his current boss, a non-Irish national. Now, this guy has clocked up more air miles than Willie Walsh in British Airways – so he is well versed in working internationally. The question that kept re-emerging over the lunch was: “Why can’t I manage this guy?” The answer … perhaps he’s not manageable.

Problem-Solvers: Most of us who’ve trained in management are problem-solvers. Like a plumber hunting down a leak, we’re programmed to find the source of the problem, understand it and put in the weld. But sometimes we encounter a problem in a personal relationship and we just can’t fix it.  We try all the usual ‘tricks’ – but the water keeps dripping down the wall. And we don’t know what to do.

Three Solutions: The first option is easy. You can decide to shut up/put up with it. This can be quite useful in the sense that you resign yourself to your faith and stop wallowing. The reality is that the chess pieces move so fast around the managerial board that you seldom have to wait for too long for a change to happen. Time takes care of it. The second option is where you decide to confront/change something. Obviously, there are a range of approaches and some work better than others. In my experience, telling someone that they are “A brain-dead gobshite” in front of other members of the management team (it actually happened during a recent meeting I was attending) is not the smartest career strategy. The final option is that you can move on. Sometimes divorce is the solution and someone has to leave the house!

Doing Nothing: What you absolutely cannot do is decide to do nothing. Doing nothing means that you constantly churn the thing in your head, over and over and over again. Doing nothing is a decision to lift the heaviest weight of all. Remember that anonymous quote: ‘We don’t judge those who try and fail, we judge those who fail to try’. Of course it would be delightful to be so interpersonally skillful that you could successfully manage all of the key relationships in your life. But, that’s like setting the basketball net at 28 feet. For sure, it’s an objective. But it’s not realistic. You can’t win every single relationship, regardless of how interpersonally skillful you are. Cut yourself some slack. You won’t win them all. This is one area of your life where you are going to have to settle for a 97% solution.


RTE Programme: I’ve secured a slot on the Sean O’Rourke radio programme. Every couple of weeks we deal with listeners queries about work-related issues. If there are any specific topics or queries you would like addressed, let me know ( You are doing me a favour by responding to this request.


PS Lighter Moments (this one courtesy of John McGlynn, the world’s best ever, best-man).  “A man called at my door and asked what bread I ate? When I answered ‘White Batch Loaf’ they gave me a lecture on the benefits of brown bread for 30 minutes. I think they were Hovis Witnesses”.

Growing up in Dublin: Interesting 3 minute Video. Worth a look (even if you are not from Dublin).

Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organisation development.


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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One Response to Cut Yourself Some Slack: You can’t ‘fix’ every relationship

  1. midwifesean says:

    I hope that this makes more sense than my last reply , for which I blame the phone .
    It occurs to me that if you are not in harmony with your boss and all you have tried has so far failed, and taking it that you are a reasonable person , then you are not alone, and others are probably feeling the same as yourself . Maybe an off campus team building exercise could be of benefit . In this current climate changing jobs may not be a reasonable option . Fixing ,rebuilding , or failing that respectful cohabitation .
    You could send him or her an anonymous email stating ‘ All is Known !’ …and see if he exits stage left .

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