Once we reach adulthood, most of our lives are spent working. Those that work in offices know how important work relationships are. Many people are challenged when it comes to building connections with people. Similarly, there are always some colleagues that are easily interacting with others. Such people can quickly start a friendly work relationship with apparently minimal effort. However, this skill is like any other. It needs to be nurtured and developed.
Relationships in the workplace are more important than we think. And for those in managerial positions, it is even more important. At work, we need to interact with coworkers, people in the chain of command, and workflow regardless of our likes and dislikes for them. Many people call these “forced relationships.”
Importance of Good Work Relationships
Work relationships need to be congenial so that the office culture remains positive and productive. And having healthy relationships means that people remain productive at work and don’t get sidetracked by relationship issues between coworkers.
This is particularly important for those in managerial or supervisory roles as they need to control the likes and dislikes of their team members and get them to work efficiently.
For employees, having good relationships means that they do not get intimidated or even bullied by their colleagues or team members. We all feel more comfortable with the people we connect with.
From a managerial perspective, a supportive work relationship with employees enables a positive work environment and allows organisations to grow. However, there are many nuances in a boss-employee relationship, and a proper management strategy is needed to sustain and grow the relationship.
A foreign employment survey reveals that 58 per cent of people trust strangers more than their boss. Why this huge lack of trust? Miscommitments, lack of communication and a perception of unfairness are strong relationship hindrances between managers and their staff.
Qualities of a Good Work Relationship
Healthy work relationships are more about mutual respect and tolerance than likes. Unlike personal relationships, feelings don’t need to be involved in professional linkages. But since we are all human and unique, we have feelings about our coworkers and managers. Therefore, we need to give relationship development time, effort and empathy.
Some essential tips to help build a healthy work relationship with employees are as follows
1. Build up Trust
While important in all relationships, it is even more important in a subordinate-superior relationship since the employee can feel vulnerable, particularly if the manager has not made efforts to build a rapport with the employee. As managers, make an effort, to be honest, communicative, and clear about boundaries. Truth and clear communication are key to building up trust.
As a manager, be transparent in your approach to your employees. Treat all equally and do not gossip about your staff or share personal information with team members. Trust is a relationship-building block and helps sustain your relationship with employees.
2. Bridge Gaps Through Communication
I always say this, but communication is the key factor in professional, boss, and employee relationships. Open and honest communication gives people an understanding of each other’s sentiments and needs. A working relationship limited to email, and written communication will be very dry. Weekly meetings to hear the employees’ feedback should help you get in touch with the employees’ pulse.
Acting on their complaints where possible and resolving them is a major booster. However, that is not always possible, and that is where communication comes into play. Let your staff know that you listened and tried to solve the problem but couldn’t succeed. Sharing this with your team lets them know that 1) You listened, 2) You tried to solve their problem, and 3) You are still willing to help them come up with a solution
3. Give Your Employees Appreciation
Just like you feel good after receiving appreciation from your superiors or colleagues, younger, more inexperienced employees need the boost of appreciation for jobs done well.
Work can be exhausting and draining. However, a simple email of appreciation or a “Thank you” can lift moods and increase motivation.
In less formal setups, giving employees pats on the back, verbal praise in meetings, and team treats in the form of official lunches or dinners can help Give your employees the appreciation they deserve. Make sure that the praise is earned and worth the time and effort. Don’t praise just for the sake of praising them. An overall honest approach to all things is key!
Though it takes little time to appreciate good work, it can bring a new level of motivation and engagement to employees’ work.
4. Maintain Friendly, Respectful Employees
This is tricky, as there are very thin demarcations between friendliness and personal relationships. Acknowledging and being friendly with employees means that you are making yourself available to them. However, there is a difference between being approachable and becoming friends.
This approachability also means that you show your respect for employees and their opinions about work. Do not degrade them for their opinions and particularly about lack of knowledge. Being respectful is separate from disagreeing. Disagreeing without ridiculing, degrading, and correcting without scolding are important skills to develop. Appreciate useful inputs, and explain where and why it is not practical.
5. Give Employees Freedom
Give employees as much freedom to work as possible. Nobody appreciates micromanagers, and employees resent micromanagement more than anything. Moreover, having the independence to perform workplace tasks increases job satisfaction and improves employee relationships.
6. Know your Employees
Most of us know about senior employees or resources in major positions but try to talk to all new and junior resources. Therefore, it is important to have one-to-one interactions with them. This would give you an idea about the new resources and will give them a sense of support to know that they can talk to the manager as and if needed.
Ask them questions about the work assigned to them. Knowing if they are happy with the tasks, assessing their understanding, and if they are getting support from their senior team members will tell you a lot about what is happening in your team. You will also learn which resource is keen on learning new processes. You can also get useful insights about the current way of work and improve it.
7. Be Willing to Learn
We all know that at work, we follow the adage that the boss is always right. However, this is not a healthy approach. Instead, keep an open mind and be willing to try new approaches to work, where possible in your line of work.
This should help create an enabling environment, with employees comfortable giving useful insights on how to do better, cut costs, or save time. Taking in their views and trying them out makes employees feel empowered and willing to think out ways to work better. This eventually helps the organisation and makes you look good as a manager.
At the end of the day, the manager-employee relationship is about trust and mutual respect. Genuine involvement from both parties is key to making it work well for all. There are nuances involved.
Sadia Zaheer holds a Masters in Business Administration from IBA, Karachi. After working in several financial institutions in Client Management, Corporate Lending, Islamic Banking and Product Management she jumped careers to pursue a career in writing.
She is a Finance, Business and HR Development writer with four years of experience. She reads a lot and takes care of her multiple cats to remain calm.