Why leaders should work on positive relationships

Good workplace relationships have come under the spotlight in 2022 as companies around the world look internally at how to both support and retain their employees.

The impact of COVID-19 on workplace practices is still being felt in many organisations as we continue to adjust to changes in our routines, our workloads and our team structures.

Pressures for leaders may include having to fill a vacancy left by a team member moving on or adjusting to a new team as a managerial role.

In Australia last year one in five people quit or changed jobs according to research from NAB.

Whatever challenges and changes leaders are facing, the importance of positive relationships between their team member and themselves is paramount and if maintained well, can alleviate common issues in the workplace.

Registered Psychologist and State Manager for APM WorkCare, Silvana Vogiatzakis, says leaders can help support the performance and wellbeing of their team by maintaining positive relationships.

“When people are happy at work, they are inspired to be productive and also to invest into the team,” she said.

“As well as a sense of accomplishment, engagement and positive relationships increase your desire to be at work.”

When team relationships get tested

If communications break down or collaboration is threatened by the relationship of members of you team, leaders should be confident of when to step in.

“Building a culture of listening and understanding can avoid issues blowing up between team members,” Silvana says.

“Leaders need to set the example by developing shared values and a team identity, and learning to recognise the emotions of others.”

“And if a relationship does break down it’s essential leaders don’t take sides or listen to gossip – they should be objective and if required, seek mediation.”

The benefits of good relationships between employees isn’t just about a happier atmosphere in the workplace, research shows there is a direct link to job satisfaction and engagement.

According to the National Business Research Institute in the US, employee satisfaction skyrockets nearly 50% when a worker develops a close relationship on the job.

If your relationship is breaking down

It’s not just the relationships between team members or colleagues that leaders should support, but also their own relationships with employees.

If you’re struggling with a relationship between yourself and someone who reports to you, the emphasis is on you as a leader to manage it well.

“Scheduling regular one-to-one meetings with the employee to check in with them can be a way to keep communications flowing and avoid a break down,” says Silvana.

“You don’t want to micro-manage. Instead ask for feedback and listen to your team member.”

“Making sure you recognise great work and coaching team members when required is also important and continues your role in maintaining a healthy work-life balance in the team.”

“Remember to be open and allow team members to talk about the issues. Then you can work together on any actions to fix them,” Silvana adds.

What if you just don’t like them?

There are plenty of workplaces where people just can’t see eye-to-eye or generally don’t like each other. 

For leaders it’s essential that this relationship doesn’t become toxic and infect the rest of the team or workplace, especially if the leader is one of the people involved.

Giving up on having a professional relationship is not an option for good leaders.

“Being a leader means having to be the adult in the room,” says Silvana.

“As leaders it’s up to us to adjust, take time to understand a personality and adjust to communicate with them.”

“Try to learn more about that employee and find common ground and interests to build a professional rapport.

“Leaders should find their employees strengths and acknowledge them,” Silvana adds.

Mental health and wellbeing

If positive relationships result in more engaged employees, it’s no surprise that negative relationships impact performances in the workplace.

Research suggests more than 65% of performance issues at work can be because of poor workplace relationships.

Plus mental health issues are the leading cause of long-term absence from work, and only half of Australian workers believe their workplace is mentally healthy.

For leaders, productivity, performance, and the wellbeing of team members can all be supported by maintaining positive relationships.

5 top tips for leaders in supporting good relationships 

  1. Develop trust, rapport and build a fun work environment.
  2. Maintain consistent communication – do what you say you will do and also do what you expect the team to do.
  3. Show appreciation and respect of others – there is always some common ground if you look hard enough – build on this.
  4. Speak well of team members – no matter what.  Be honest with kindness. 
  5. Be positive and look for the good outcome in a situation. Surprise the team often with acknowledgements, recognitions and fun activities.