February 17, 2010

Responsibility for Workplace Relationships – Challenging Beliefs

Hidden in the depths of the evolution of the way that organizations are run is a long held belief. Managers are responsible for the way the interactions with their people progress. That may not be the case…

Through the decades of the modern industrial era, managers have, rightly or wrongly, held roles which are seen to be very directive. A role where the manager’s word is the final one, with their people complying.

Over the last two decades, whilst this has started to change as organizations become more democratic, involving more of their people in decision making as well as including them more in developing strategies and opportunities, there is still a long way to go in the real world to see this positioning change.

There are managers out there at the sharp end who are embracing the potential of more and more of their people, but it is still the norm for what the manager says is the rule.

For the enlightened ones and as a consequence of this, managers have assumed the role of relationship builders in many organizations, seeing it as their job to be the creators of workplace relationships with their people. This is certainly an exception to the rule even then, so there is work still to do.

Sometimes, managers see this activity as their job alone and one where they need to spend time, yet are frustrated with the amount of effort they have to make, in what can often be a very one way workload.

Sad to say – even where creation and nourishment of strong and valuable relationships with their team is seen to be a useful activity in itself – not much time is overtly being devoted to this, partly because managers are so busy with all the regular management ‘stuff’ they get on their desks each day.

So, what needs to change?

The opportunities that good working relationships provide are valuable for both sides of the equation.

For managers, getting the best from their people often depends on their capacity for getting on well enough with them to help the employee feel valued, understood and that they have a useful part to play in the team. this helps organizational results targets be met, thus keeping senior management at bay.

For employees, there is much to value when they have a strong bond with their manager.

Used appropriately, regular, positive interactions with a manager can open new career doors, create development opportunities (both through learning through delegated tasks and also being more in the sightline of a manager looking for those ready for the next step), as well as create a friendly environment in which to spend a chunk of their time.

Where both sides of the manager/employee relationship see that there is a good point to fostering their relationships – for mutual benefit – the pressure to make it work is halved, making the possibilities much more likely to come to fruition.

Changing perceptions and beliefs, many of which are long-held and culture-based, will take some time. The outcomes for all being really worth the effort.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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