Today’s competitive workplace is often filled with noisy disputes and legal actions, which sap the precious resources of time and capital from an organization. Since our professional connections often are forced by time and circumstance to be our social connections as well, it is important for organizations to facilitate dynamic relationships in the workplace.
Change is needed in the American workplace. The organizations that promote an environment where employees and management develop good working relationships will be the winners.
Many of the same dynamics and difficulties exist for relationships in the workplace as do for those outside the workplace. One of the greatest losses to an organization is having no real, satisfying relationships in the workplace. Successful organizations are the ones that create an environment that encourages people to create relationships, that encourages people to be their creative, whole selves.
Having a good working relationship with a coworker means trust, and trust assumes that the other person is going to come through for you. It’s management’s job to see that everyone’s goal is to come through for one another.
In my years of consulting with organizations of all sizes and types, I have found that the stories about relationships turning disastrous in the workplace are all premised on a competitive environment. That must change if your organization is going to be successful. The workplace should be about working together, about partnership. There are very few situations in which an organization moves forward when one employee wins by making sure another one loses. If an employee knows something of value that could help everyone, but doesn’t share that information because of competition, everyone loses.
The decision to explore or eschew good working relationships should not be put solely on the shoulders of each individual employee. Much of the responsibility falls on management, which must strive to make the workplace one in which supportive, non-competitive relationships can flourish.
Employees should never be pitted against one another. They should never be made to feel unworthy or left out. The emphasis should be on cohesion and the common good, with group goals and teamwork focus.
While it is managements duty to facilitate dynamic relationships in the workplace, the individual employee still has responsibilities as well. Whether working in an environment in which competition is encouraged or defused, there are certain, specific steps an individual can take to make sure good working relationships survive at work:
* Talk about things that are upsetting you in your work relationship.
* Don’t avoid the real issues.
* Listen to each other’s point of view.
* Don’t try to convince the other person that you are right and he or she is wrong.
*Don’t take either/or, this, you/ me positions.
* Assume that maintaining a good working relationship is as important as, if not more important than, anything happening at work.
If managers and their employees all conscientiously attempt to keep the work environment clear of competition, then many potentially damaging relationship complications and crises will be more easily handled, doing much less ultimate harm to all those involved than they might otherwise do.
Quality relationships are what produce quality products and services. Real productivity begins with employees who are nourished by caring, encouraging coworkers and supervisors. It’s an atmosphere where personal creativity can really flourish.
While caring about an employee’s emotional well-being and the healthiness of his or her relationships may not be part of anyone’s “official” job description, it is a genuine key to creating quality products and services.
It’s incumbent upon senior management in particular to wholeheartedly support personal growth in individuals further down the employment ladder; otherwise, an environment will persist in which growth cannot and will not take place. However, the responsibility to create a supportive environment involves all employees. Just as a CEO can be caring and encouraging, so too can an hourly employee. When it comes to understanding emotions and relationships, there are no status levels.
The workplace can often be a very angry place, and the relationships there can be irreparably harmed by anger and mistrust. In fact when it comes to relationships among colleagues anger and mistrust often arise out of issues in the work relationship. A successful organization is one that faces these issues head-on, that discusses them openly and encourages good working relationships, caring, and trust.
At the heart of it all is communication. The secret to healing in the workplace is to get people talking, a process not nearly as elementary as it might sound. Employees do not always want to talk about work. Often, in groups of their colleagues, they talk about themselves, who they are, what they dream about, and, what they resent and fear. They discuss things friends usually talk about, not people who happen to share the same work space.
When people reveal themselves to coworkers, when they openly discuss their feelings with honesty and compassion, when they are truly understood as individuals, the stage is set for meaningful workplace relationships between people who are real, and not just figures hurrying down a hall or across a plant floor. This, in turn, feeds and facilitates the more impersonal, yet worthy and essential goals of an organization: quality, productivity, and the bottom line.
For the most part management doesn’t have to do anything extraordinary for a relationship-supportive environment to exist. If an organization offers fair compensation, has an equitable system of promotion in place, and rewards work done on its merit, the relationships in the workplace will take care of themselves. You can’t arrange people to get along with one another. That is like parents trying to select or match up their children. It can’t be done. These things, these relationships just happen.
Business is 90 percent relationships. You can’t do business without them. But there must be a delicate balance between relationships and friendships. For example, managers should know not to become great drinking buddies with the people they supervise. Just as they should also know not to become close friends with the chairman.
On the other hand, don’t be aloof. Maintain a positive relationship that doesn’t impose on you, the other person, or the work to be done. These are common sense things managers learn as they mature.
Cultivating relationships in the workplace ultimately comes down to the individual employees. An organization can and should try to facilitate relationships in the workplace but it comes down to individual styles or individual needs as human beings. Because of the type of organization and the diversity of the workplace it will vary from workplace to workplace, manger to manager, and friend to friend.
But as we move further into the 21st Century, it may well turn out that the success of an organization pivots on its ability to tap into something very basic, something as old and entrenched as mankind itself: the need to establish relationships, to connect with someone else.
Copyright© 2005 by Joe Love and JLM & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.
Joe Love draws on his 25 years of experience helping both individuals and companies build their businesses, increase profits, and achieve total success. He is the founder and CEO of JLM & Associates, a consulting and training organization, specializing in personal and business development. Through his seminars and lectures, Joe Love addresses thousands of men and women each year, including the executives and staffs of many of America’s largest corporations, on the subjects of leadership, self-esteem, goals, achievement, and success psychology.
Reach Joe at: email@example.com
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