“A human being is a social animal. So, if you create some short moment of happiness for people, you get deep satisfaction.” – Dalai Lama
Unless you are extremely unusual and have no contact with anyone, you will need to be able to build and maintain strong relationships, both in your personal and work lives.
The definition of the word ‘relationship’ by APA Dictionary of Psychology is, “A continuing and often committed association between two or more people, as in a family, friendship, marriage, partnership, or other interpersonal link in which the participants have some degree of influence on each other’s thoughts, feelings, and actions.”
The word ‘influence’ is key here, as all relationships in your life are linked to the way you behave, think and feel. So no wonder that all relationships in your work will have an impact on the quality of the work you produce. The same is true for all your employees.
What makes a workplace relationship good?
There are 5 factors that make up a relationship that is considered good. Trust, respect, emotional intelligence, communication and boundaries.
Trust is the backbone of any relationship. The organisation’s culture and values will have an impact on how much trust is willingly offered at the start of all work relationships. Paul J. Zak, at the Harvard Business Review, carried out research that showed that people at high-trust companies report:
- 74% less stress,
- 106% more energy at work,
- 50% higher productivity,
- 13% fewer sick days,
- 76% more engagement,
- 29% more satisfaction with their lives,
- 40% less burnout.
His research suggested that a chemical in our brains called oxytocin, is responsible for how much trust someone has for others. Stress lowers oxytocin levels in our bodies, and as a result lowers our trust. The more you can reduce stress for your employees the more trust they will be able to have in the organisation and their colleagues, improving all relationships in the workplace.
Having respect for your employees means that you value their skills and work and you recognise their worth in the office. It also means that you show appreciation for someone’s traits and qualities. Essentially, it means to treat someone with dignity and gratitude.
When you are respectful towards your employees, a sense of safety is created, where both parties feel comfortable to share their thoughts and to be themselves. It is also in this environment that discussions of opposing opinions, needs and wants can happen.
Emotional intelligence is about being aware of your emotions, how to manage them and how to use them to get along with others. It includes factors such as self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social-skills.
Check out: Emotional Intelligence to find out more.
Firstly, when you have strong emotional intelligence you will be able to listen and understand your own emotions and those of others. Secondly you will be able to communicate with them in the right way to reach a compromise or a solution. Both of these skills are needed to build strong bonds in your organisation.
Having good communication skills enables you to express yourself correctly without offending others and at the same time not diminishing your self-worth. All the factors above will contribute to your communication skills. Remember: you don’t have to be an extrovert to have good communication skills.
Sharing ideas, constructive feedback and intended meaning is necessary for a healthy relationship.
A good relationship doesn’t mean we know everything about each other. Having boundaries, being able to clearly set them and communicate them to others is vital for a work relationship. Types of boundaries include:
- Mental Boundaries
- Physical Boundaries
- Emotional Boundaries
Setting these boundaries is a form of self-care and self-respect. If you don’t care for yourself then your relationships will suffer too.
As a manager you need to respect your employees’ boundaries too. It is important to show interest in their lives, however you need to know when you are overstepping.
The Positives of Good Employee Relationships
Everyone knows that having good relationships, whether it is in the workplace or in your personal life is beneficial and something everyone should strive for. But what exactly are the positives?
The How-To Guide
Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of how you can start promoting building strong relationships in your organisation today.
The first thing you need to understand is that money can’t buy happiness – similarly it won’t magically make your staff thrilled to be working for you and make them a one big happy family. You need to start with creating – and upholding a company culture and values that really promote and encourage strong relationship building. In a research carried out by Glassdoor, they found that company culture and values are the most important factors affecting job satisfaction.
In an interview with Courtney Bigony, a sociologist, Dr. Shannon Arvizu, states that, “It’s important that people feel safe to experiment and try something new. People also need to feel like it’s safe to make mistakes and fail.”
In this interview, she explains that it’s all about psychological safety, which is an environment in which people feel safe to speak up. As mentioned in the 5 factors above, if there is trust and respect in a team, each member will be more inclined to raise issues, share ideas or constructive criticism and admit to mistakes.
As a manager, team leader or supervisor, to promote this type of behaviour you should first start by addressing your own EQ. You need to understand your strengths and weaknesses, or as Dr. Arvizu calls them – your ‘sabotaging tendencies’. Next you’ll be able to do the same for your team.
To increase your emotional intelligence you can also try core coaching techniques such as ‘Discovery Questions’ and ‘Feedforward’.
When you ask discovery questions, for example, ‘How did you come up with this idea?’ you show that you care about their point of view and that you are willing to listen. It is a clear sign of respect where you show that you value their work.
As well as this you should provide positive feedback. In a Gallup study, 67% of employees who were engaged in their organisation also stated that their manager focuses on their strengths or positive characteristics, when providing feedback.
This is important as it adds to your employee’s Emotional Piggy Bank™ – and when a situation will occur, where you say something that could diminish their psychological safety it won’t have as negative an impact as it could.
Feedback is essential in every workplace, however you can sometimes replace it with feedforward. Feedforward is an idea where you widen your possibilities. Essentially instead of finding reasons why something won’t work – you are brainstorming solutions or alternatives.
In a nutshell, “Leaders can create environments that are psychologically safe, focus on employee strengths, create awareness around unproductive mental habits, and value employee feedback by asking the right questions on a regular basis. By joining together the relational and the technical to increase performance and professional relationships, businesses can facilitate a healthy and sustainable culture alongside a high performing one.”
If you would like to learn more about emotional intelligence and work relationships, watch our Masterclas: Burn outs & Blow-ups: How to get the best out of yourself & others without losing your mind! or enrol in our Professional Diploma or Certificate today.
Gallup, 2021: State of the Global Workplace Report – Gallup
Perceptive, 2021: How employee well-being drives profit
TeamStage, 2022: Teamwork Statistics 2022: Importance of Collaboration | TeamStage
Centre For Mental Health, 2018: https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/2018-09/mental_health_at_work.pdf
LinkedIn Learning: LinkedIn-Learning_Workplace-Learning-Report-2021-EN-1.pdf
LinkedIn Business, 2022: Global Talent Trends: Data-Driven Insights into the Changing World of Work