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Relationships can provide the necessary emotional support to help you cope with the pressures of work and your personal life. However, balancing committed relationships with occupational demands, can often lead to a conflict of roles. Relationship issues in need of delicate navigation include those with coworkers, peers, and supervisors, in which boundaries between the personal and professional can sometimes be unclear.

How do they impact the workplace?

Collaboration is an important component of occupational functioning, particularly in laboratory and clinical settings. Therefore, healthy working relationships with peers and supervisors are crucial to occupational success. A relationship can vacillate between being a source of support and being an additional source of stress. It is important for you to identify where a particular relationship falls on the stress-support continuum and to set boundaries accordingly in order to prevent decline in work performance.


How healthy is your relationship?

Consider the following questions.


  • Does each of you maintain and respect healthy boundaries?
  • Does each of you feel free to express your opinion?
  • Does your relationship allow for change and growth?
  • Is time spent with friends and family encouraged and respected?
  • Does your relationship get in the way of work, school, or other commitments?


  • Are you honest with each other?
  • Are you able to be yourself when you are together?
  • Does your partner say one thing but mean another?
  • Can you depend on each other?


  • Do you treat each other with respect and kindness?
  • Is either of you overly negative or critical?
  • Has either of you ever acted in a threatening manner?
  • Do either of you have a problem controlling anger?
  • Do you argue on a regular basis?
  • Do either of you have a problem with alcohol or drugs?


  • Are you gaining something positive from your relationship?
  • Do you feel cared for and valued?
  • Does spending time together make you happy?
  • Do you feel positive about your relationship?


  • Is there equal and open communication in the relationship?
  • Do you ask for each other’s opinions?
  • Do you listen to each other and try to see things from the other’s point of view?
  • Do you share helpful information with each other?
  • Does each of you share a genuine interest in what the other has to say?


How do you manage conflict in a relationship?

Common pitfalls

  • Refusal to listen to the other’s point of view
  • Using disrespectful language or name calling
  • Assuming you know the other person’s motives or thoughts
  • Refusal to compromise
  • Bringing up past events to fuel the argument
  • Refusal to apologize
  • Arguing when you are too angry
  • Planning what you are going to say next while the other is talking

Tips for positive communication

  • Be open to hearing the other person’s point of view, even if you disagree.
  • Show that you are listening by restating what you hear him or her say.
  • Avoid blame and judgment.
  • Allow your partner to explain and don’t interrupt.
  • Discuss the issue without bringing up the past.
  • Admit that you may be wrong—saying you are sorry can go a long way toward solving conflict.
  • If you are angry, give yourself time to calm down before talking.
  • Really listen to the other person and calmly respond to his or her points.
  • Attack the problem, not each other.
  • Be willing to give and take.


What should I do if my relationship feels unsafe?

Domestic violence, sometimes called intimate partner violence (IPV), includes behaviors used by one person to control the other. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated, or dating.

IPV can happen to anyone, yet it is often overlooked, excused, or denied. This is especially true when the abuse is emotional, rather than physical. Emotional abuse is often minimized, yet it can leave deep and lasting scars and may result in serious health problems such as eating disorders, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and insomnia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), IPV often begins with emotional abuse and progresses to physical or sexual assault.


What does partner violence look like?
  • Emotional Control
    • Intimidating a partner
    • Accusing a partner of having other relationships
    • Threatening a partner, children, other family members, or pets
    • Always putting a partner down or making him or her feel bad
    • Keeping a partner from contacting friends and family
  • Verbal Control
    • Accusing and blaming a partner
    • Name calling
    • Playing down a partner’s thoughts, feelings, or needs
    • Denying anger or abuse
    • Threatening to commit suicide to convince a partner to do something
  • Financial Control
    • Taking a partner’s ID, paycheck, money, credit cards, or property without permission
    • Racking up debt without a partner’s knowledge
    • Purposely ruining a partner’s credit score
    • Bothering a partner at work to negatively impact a job
    • Denying basic needs of life to a partner and/or children
  • Physical Control
    • Pushing, hitting, slapping, choking, kicking, or biting
    • Damaging property
    • Forcing a partner to have sex or to do sexual acts she or he does not want or like
    • Refusing to leave or allowing someone to leave


What are some warning signs of partner violence?

The following questions may help you determine if you are at risk. Do you:

  • Feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
  • Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
  • Feel that you can’t do anything right?
  • Believe that you deserve to be mistreated?
  • Wonder if you are, or are becoming, crazy?
  • Feel emotionally numb or helpless?


What are some common myths about partner violence?
  1. I asked for it. No one asks to be hurt. It doesn’t matter what you do, if your partner abuses you, it’s wrong.
  2. This is normal in relationships. Even if you grew up in a home with violence and abuse, these are not normal or acceptable behaviors.
  3. If I love him or her enough the abuse will stop. It is true that the abuser needs love. But without outside help, he or she will not change, even with your love. Violence is the abuser’s pattern of behavior and not something that you can control.
  4. Things will get better. If abuse is occurring in a relationship, it usually gets worse over time. Things will not get better without some type of intervention.
  5. No one can help me. If you can take the initial step of deciding there is a problem, there are many resources available to assist you, including FASAP.

You and your spouse or partner are eligible for confidential services, without charge.  All records are maintained and managed by FASAP; clinical records are NOT part of your personnel file.  All clinical documentation is maintained separately from EPR and EPIC medical records.

If you are close to someone impacted by intimate partner violence and in need of some support, a FASAP clinician is available to listen to your experience and help you find ways to care for yourself in this stressful situation.


What resources are available?

Individual counseling aimed at developing healthy communication, conflict resolution, and boundary setting skills can address issues in personal and professional relationships. Couples counseling is an effective way to address relationship issues between romantic partners.

JHU Mediation can help resolve conflict between employees by offering a skilled and neutral third party as a facilitator. JHH mediation can be accessed by contacting JHH Consulting and Labor Relations.

FASAP can help you cultivate relationship skills through individual sessions and by connecting you to resources.

Updated 05/02/2014

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