Working relationships can be fragile- especially in the workplace where they are often built and destroyed by the actions we take. Most of us are in such relationships and for many of us they are a source of stress. Building healthy, secure and harmonious relationships is important not only to us personally, but also to underpin the success of the organisation we work for. We need to build effective relationships for a number of reasons:
The health of people depends on what happens in organisations and what they do. Overwork, stress, being subjected to harassment or bullying all impact on a person’s health and therefore on their ability to fulfil their role within the organisation. Staff who are stressed make mistakes costing the organisation time, effort, money and reputation.
Organisations only function with the co-operation of their members – staff are at the coal face of the organisation, fulfilling all the functions necessary to ensure success. If there is disharmony in the workplace, this can impact negatively on the organisation’s success.
Organisations can have a profound effect on people that do not work for them but who depend on them for the necessities of life – for example, food, housing and clean water. Well run harmonious organisations are, normally, stable and therefore also offer a stable environment to their staff and all the people who depend on them. Society is a web of relationships, requiring all parties to work together in order to create something that is good. But what makes society work even better are relationships that are positive, co-operative and respectful. In this way everyone works for the good of the whole and towards a common purpose. This demands effective relationships based on mutual understanding. If you understand what people want and why they want it, you can usually find a way to make progress together.
What Is an Effective Relationship?
Building an effective relationship means listening to understand someone else’s positions and feelings. The simplest way to understand what is important to another person or to a group is to ask, then listen to the answer. We all know when someone else is really interested in us; the other person is attentive, does not interrupt, does not fidget and does not speak about him or herself. This gives us time to think and feel accepted, rather than feel we are being judged.
Building an effective relationship means openly expressing your position and feelings. Sometimes we expect people to understand what we want and to give us what we need intuitively. This is not a realistic standpoint. We need to say what we need and to express how we feel. By doing this we are more likely to get what we want, rather than expecting someone to notice what we want, then waiting for that person to give it to us and getting upset when it doesn’t happen.
In order to make relationships more effective, we should treat ourselves and each other with respect. Respect is the core of any good relationship. You can respect people (even if you find their behaviour difficult to understand) by acknowledging that they are doing the best they can when their circumstances and history are taken into account.
Developing Effective Workplace Relationships
Building effective workplace relationships begins with understanding your own role and how it contributes to the organisation’s overall plans and objectives. Your own role is, largely, defined by your job description and information in the organisation’s staff handbook (if available). These documents outline:
the organisation’s code of conduct – the behavioural standards and ethics the organisation expects of you
the duties and confidentiality issues that relate to your job.
the legal obligations you must comply with
exactly what tasks your role entails who you report to:
levels of supervision and accountability in your role
the team structure
how your department fits within the rest of the organisation
the skills, training & competence you are expected bring with you to the role and what you may be required to learn in terms of ongoing professional development (PD) training
Your Impact on the Organisation
No one in an organisation, works in complete isolation. You will work with colleagues and supervisors in your own department. You may work with other departments as a member of a committee or team. In any case, it is important to understand how your role fits into the departmental and/or organisational picture. The duties you perform may represent an important step in an organisation’s procedures or processes, or, they may be part of a larger task or project working with others – all contributing towards getting a specific task done. You may all be working on the task or project simultaneously or each person may need to complete their part, so that the next person can complete theirs. So you must be aware of who relies on you to get your work done so that they can complete their own tasks.
You will also need to be aware of the timeframes in which you need to complete your tasks. Holding the work up could cost the company its customers, revenue and/or reputation. A successful organisation should run like a well oiled machine with each cog turning in sync with the others so that it meshes with the machinery as a whole. Broken cogs can damage the machinery just as inefficient work practices and team work can damage the organisation.