I recently ran a workshop with a group of line managers who have been working together for varying amounts of time. Some had known each other for many years, other members of the team were quite new. The objective of the workshop was to offer them a ‘Model of Working Relationships’ so they could develop a heightened awareness of how to create productive working relationships to achieve business objectives.
Central to this model is that the quality of working relationships is a key variable in organisational performance. This claim links to some research from the University of NSW, which I have blogged about previously. Their research concluded that quality relationships represent the central pivot on which excellent workplaces are founded. In the workshop I invited the participants to discuss the following:
- How do you know when you are working well and not working well?
- What are the consequences of poor Working Relationships?
- What are the consequences of very good Working Relationships?
- What makes the difference between very good and not so good Working Relationships?
I then presented eight ‘Dimensions of Working Relationships’(Sieler) and we explored how the quality of working relationships is the overarching context that enables or does not enable workplace conversations to occur. These eight dimensions include:
- Fundamental Respect – this means you accept each other and treat each other as legitimate. Core issues at stake here are worth, respect and dignity
- Trust – you are sincere/genuine, competent, reliable and involved
- Concern - you are prepared to understand what is important in the relationship and how well the concerns of each of you are being addressed
- Coordination (Cooperation and Commitments) – you are coordinating your efforts to produce satisfactory outcomes, and realising goals and objectives. When coordination breaks down, performance and productivity suffers, tension can increase and this can place strain on relationships
- Moods and Emotions – which ones are experienced in the relationship; how the moods and emotions enhance or detract from the quality of the conversations that occur (and influence those that do not occur) and the nature of relationship
- Conversations - the types of conversations that do and don’t happen. The quality of the conversations that occur – their effectiveness in the context of the working relationship. The conversations that are missing that could enhance the quality of the working relationship
- Appreciation - A sense of feeling valued and appreciated for work efforts as well as for the person you are. This includes the little “pats on the back” and the “thankyous”, as well as wider public recognition. One of our fundamental concerns as humans is to feel recognised, acknowledged, valued and appreciated
- Alignment – going in the same direction together (which implies agreement on the direction and what is being worked towards). This includes a commitment to being collaborative and coordinating action. Equally importantly, alignment is also about stating what is missing for you, as a reflection of your commitment to wanting to remain aligned
The workshop participants then worked in pairs and used these 8 factors to explore their working relationships. I invite you to think about a workplace relationship that needs some improvement and review the list. What stands out for you? What clues does the provide for maintaining and/or moving forward on this relationship?