“Your most precious possession is not your financial assets. Your most precious possession is the people you have working there, and what they carry around in their heads, and their ability to work together,”
Robert Reich (b.1946), economist and politician
How much of your time as a leader is spent refereeing relationships at work? You know what we’re talking about. There’s the person always stirring the chili and working office politics, the prima Dona who demands special care, the eager beaver who’s into everybody’s business but his own and of course the lawsuit waiting to happen that you want to fire but are afraid to. If you could find a way to not only end the negative interaction with your staff but actually get them to open up and cooperate with each other and sincerely care about their work mates, how much more productive would the organization be? Training in improving employment relationships may just be the answer.
1. The role of a relationships trainer
While there are certain common characteristics in every relationship the dynamics between two people much less an entire staff will vary greatly. The role of the trainer is to first observe the relationships, understand them and then facilitate transformation into a more cooperative and inclusive culture. This process is a top down operation and the success depends on leadership’s ability to understand their personal relationships.
2. Understand yourself first
Believe it or not but how you relate to colleagues at work is based largely on what you learned as a kid growing up. The relationships you learned from your family regarding authority, territory, cooperation, reward and punishment are the foundations for the relationships you have as an adult. So at the heart of it, managers tend to have the same relationship with their employees as a parent does with his or her children and this can stifle creativity and encourage resentment of authority (you). Understanding and identifying these relationship traits in yourself is the first step in creating a more productive working environment for all.
3. Knock down the silos
Effective training in employment relations will encourage employees to become less territorial and more cooperative. The “job” will become the success of the organization rather than accomplishing the tasks of their individual “silos” where currently they resent any intrusion even if the intrusion improves the task.
4. Encourage collaborative effort
The old saying two heads are better than one is often correct. However, if both those heads are vying for recognition and reward any benefit that they might have had working together disappears. Encouraging and rewarding collaborative effort is an important part of developing a more productive work force.
5. Encourage creativity
Allow your employees to challenge the status quo. Encourage people to look at processes and challenges with new eyes and develop new creative solutions. Don’t confine them to solving issues only in their immediate area of responsibility, allow them to tackle the issues raised in other functions as a result of interacting with their work product.
6. Strive to be one person
Most of us believe we have two lives, a work life, and a home life. As a result, we often take on different personalities and relationship standards based on where we are. A manager/leader can be a loving, caring spouse and parent at home but feels he or she has to take a different relationship stance at work. Think about it for a minute. As a spouse, you’re a partner and as a parent, you’re a leader. Why would you change your style simply because you are at work? Try to be the one person that you really are.
7. The end game – increase the bottom line
Don’t confuse all the items in this list as just exercises in feeling good about yourself and your employees. The whole purpose of improving relationships at work is to improve the overall productivity which in turn drives profits to the bottom line. If implemented correctly, you will inject a new enthusiasm, a new energy and a new willingness to succeed on the part of your staff. Less time will be spent “dealing” with relationships and more time will be spent accomplishing a common goal.
Employee relations can make or break an organization depending on how management perceives them. Training in understanding relationships in the workplace can have an amazingly positive effect on both profitability and sustainability.