Healthy work relationships matter
In the Wall Street Journal article “Making 2011 the Year of Great Relationships,” Elizabeth Bernstein states:
Made any New Year’s resolutions yet? Here’s an idea: Focus on the state of your relationships instead of the state of your abs.
Increasingly, experts have been telling us how important social bonds are to well-being, affecting everything from how our brains process information to how our bodies respond to stress. People with strong connections to others may live longer. The quality of our relationships is the single biggest predictor of our happiness.
Research also shows that relationships–the social aspect of work–is a key component of building employee engagement. Employees are more connected to their workplace when they work with people who they genuinely care about as individuals. Sincere interest, caring and support by senior management, supervisors, and colleagues nurtures a sense of belonging and community. Work relationships can be a powerful motivator.
Is your workplace one where people feel that sense of community? Do you sometimes describe your workplace as a family? As one employee stated: “It feels like family. It’s just a closeness. Here I feel like I am somebody. People know me. We take care of each other. We don’t just discuss work; we talk about life. We have a very caring environment.”
Having positive social connections helps people perform better on the job because they listen to each other and are more open.
As David Rock explains: “When you connect people together, you reduce social threat.” Individuals can be a friend or a foe. Collaboration hits walls when others are seen as foes rather than friends.
Building work relationships can reduce silos and contribute to a more collaborative and productive workplace.
Relationships must be strengthened between leaders, managers and supervisors and the employees they lead and manage. The emotional connection between employees and company leaders impacts how employees feel about the company and their job. As people often state: “Engagement flows downhill or it does not flow at all.”
In the Towers Watson 2010 Global Workforce Study, 67% of employees want senior leaders to care about the well-being of others, but only 38% feel their senior leaders are caring.
Do leaders and managers know their employees? Are leaders genuinely interested in their employees’ well being? Having empathetic, caring managers who take the time to get to know employees—their strengths, aspirations, how they work best, how they learn, what inspires them and their challenges–promotes a more engaged employee.
As one employee described his work relationship with his supervisor: “There’s always somebody you can talk to if you have a problem, whether it be personal or company-related. There’s nothing he won’t help.”
Engaged workers have supervisors who genuinely care about them. Think about the supervisors at your workplace:
- Do they take time to guide employees?
- Do they remove obstacles to optimize worker performance?
- Do they provide tools, resources and equipment necessary to do the job?
- Do they match workers’ individual preferences and strengths with tasks? Do they figure out what everyone does best and find ways for them to shine?
- Do they inspire workers to do their best work every day?
And work relationships must exist between employees. Engaged workers have friends at work. Collaborative relationships—working with people who care about each other and help each other succeed– are the key to business success. Relationships and caring about each other promotes a sense of community and nurtures enjoyment.
Do employees work in teams? Having evolved from hunter-gatherer bands, our orientation is to the smaller, more immediate group. In teams, relationships can be nurtured. People are more motivated in highly cohesive teams. Each member’s desire to be a member of the team is much stronger than their desire to leave. The members of a cohesive team each have a personal desire to see the continued existence and success of the team. Because they care about each other, they are willing to put forth extra effort.The younger Gen Y worker is typically comfortable being a team player.
Social connections where people feel others are friends at work creates positive feelings among workers which nurtures dedication and brings out the best in people.
Constructing a thriving workplace culture where employees are connected to their workplace requires understanding that employee engagement is a human endeavor. When employees have relationships and a genuine caring for each other, a company and its employees prosper. So let 2011 be the year of great relationships–not only in your personal life but also in your work-life. Quality relationships at work are key to business success.