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Fostering Strong Working Relationships

Health & Wellbeing

We have seen the power of close working relationships - Kirk and Spock, Mulder and Scully, and Draper and Olson. And in the real world too - Armstrong and Aldrin, The Beatles, and Rogers and Hammerstein.  And so many others we could mention.  But what is it that makes them such great teams? 

Several studies have found that you are more likely to be happy when you have a good friend at work. Furthermore, it has also been found that there is a direct link to better customer relationships and engagement by you and your colleagues.  On the flip side, while it is desirable to have strong working relationships, we must also learn how to work with someone we do not get on with. 

So, why are good working relationships so important?

Firstly, we are social animals and need to have close contact with other people to feel comfortable and productive.  Our interactions with our colleagues, friends and family play an essential part in our wellbeing.  Beyond our wellbeing, there is the effect of positive interactions on the team and ultimately the organisation. 

Below are some of the positive impacts for organisations that encourage a culture of strong working relationships:

  • Upskilling of all employees is easier in a collaborative environment.
  • Employee engagement, absenteeism, turnover and performance are all positively affected.
  • Collaboration is encouraged, increases creativity and exploration.
  • A higher level of commitment and loyalty to the organisation and colleagues is also evident.
  • Individual team members will experience greater feelings of wellbeing and satisfaction.
  • Trusting and open relationships will develop, which will have benefits for all concerned, benefits which cannot be replicated without the personal bond created.
  • The overarching benefit for the organisation is a successful and thriving company with a dedicated and creative team, all pulling in the same direction.

A lack of strong working relationships will impact the organisation and its employees in several ways:

  • From an individual perspective, the impacts are both mental/emotional and physical.Without strong relationships individuals will feel isolated and will suffer physical health and emotional challenges.
  • There will be employee interactions where there are instances of animosity, avoidance and exclusion, all of which negatively impact the individuals and their productivity.
  • While there is a clear correlation between the cost of lost productivity (sickness, less collaboration and communication) and turnover as staff leave a toxic environment, there is also the lost opportunities that cannot have a dollar amount attributed to them.Whether through opportunities missed or not communicated, these are a very real impact of working relationships.

How do we encourage an environment and culture where employees enjoy good working relationships? 

The element of a good relationship applies as much to team interactions as to individual ones.  They are built on:

  • Trust
  • Respect
  • Self-Awareness
  • Inclusion
  • Honesty
  • Communication

From a workplace perspective and keeping in mind that workplace connection is overwhelmingly the number one factor in job satisfaction, organisations must encourage positive relationships by providing opportunities for social interaction and removing any barriers limiting the interactions.

While we have been dealing with enforced isolation in our roles due to the pandemic, it is important to remember that face to face interaction is the number one way to encourage strong relationships.  As the situation evolves, opportunities to initiate and nurture face-to-face interactions will be a key point to act on. Those unable to enjoy face to face interactions should be encouraged to use other methods that can be used socially and for work requirements (video conferencing is an equally useful tool for social and professional interactions, as can messaging applications and voice conferencing tools).

Conflicts are a part of life and are always part of our professional lives, whether it be a disagreement over a hiring choice, how a project is being approached or even miscommunication.  It is important to provide a culture where issues can be discussed openly and without rancour.  Formal mediation methods, as well as informal ones, should be encouraged. The over-arching theme should be that all team members are expected to be honest and open in their interactions.  The key method for achieving this is that the entire organisation is committed to this.  This commitment should be part of a wider commitment to encourage strong working relationships. 

Of course, there will be conflicts, and some individuals will not get on. However, the impacts on the individuals can be minimised by ensuring an environment where relationships are professional, honest and respectful. 

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