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3 tips for encouraging fruitful relationships among employees

Sep 30, 2016 8:00:00 AM

3 areas to focus on for ensuring the efficiency and productivity of your workplace (part 2)happy-workers-preparing-the-meeting_23-2147571294.jpg

One article considers that there are three types of workers:In our first article in this series on the 3 areas that will have a major impact on the efficiency and productivity of your workplace, we considered how managers and leaders can improve the way they are directing their teams to promote a productive workforce.  This article considers how you can assist your employees to develop positive relationships with their colleagues in order to do so.  The relationships among colleagues can have a major impact on productivity in the workplace.  

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  • Actively engaged workers;
  • Non-engaged workers; and
  • Actively disengaged workers

The actively engaged employees are those which are interested in their work, in doing a good job on all the work they do and also in improving as much as they can on their work performance. The non-engaged workers are those which have effectively “checked out” of their jobs and are only getting by in their roles by doing the bare minimum.  The disengaged employees are those who are not only dissatisfied in their roles but are also recruiting others to join them in their negativity.  The disengaged employees are perhaps more concerning than the non-engaged employees due to their adverse impact on others. Where your employees fall under each of these categories will have an impact on how they relate to one another.  If you can increase the amount of your employees who are actively engaged and reduce the numbers that are actively disengaged you will have gone a long way towards increasing the productivity of relationships among workers.*

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Whether your employees are actively engaged, non-engaged or actively disengaged is not the only way to recognize whether relationships among your workers are productive.  Better camaraderie among workers as well as less interpersonal conflict will also work towards ensuring workplace harmony and in so doing a more productive workforce.  An article in Entrepreneur Magazine reported that a study done by a the publishers of the Myers-Briggs Assessment and Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument estimated that workplace conflict costs U.S. companies at least 385 million working days of lost time or $359 billion a year in lost work hours!**

Perhaps, at first blush, it may seem that as an executive staff manager you have less control over how your employees relate to one another, in their level of work engagement or whether or not they clash with one another, than you do over how you relate to them.  However, you do as a manager have control over some things that influences the way employees relate to one another.  These include:

  • Ensuring conflicts are resolved through a robust reporting structure
  • Keeping the lines of communication between management and other employees open;
  • Fostering a spirit of fun.

1. Ensuring conflicts are resolved through a robust reporting structure

Sometimes it’s tempting to ignore what may seem like a petty conflict between employees.  However, doing so can have a serious detrimental consequences.  What may at first seem consequential can quickly snowball into large-scale conflict where the parties involved have recruited others and your workforce has become polarized and collaboration among them has, as a result, become compromised.

If you become aware of a conflict between employees you should deal with it as soon as possible.  What’s more, you should ensure all employees know to whom they should report conflict so that, unless employees are under your direct management, most conflicts will be appropriately dealt with before they come to your attention.  Those given the duty of resolving conflicts should be given the appropriate tools to do so i.e. proper training on workplace conflict resolution and someone who can act as a sounding board or mentor should they encounter any issues in the process.

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There are several free resources on conflict resolution that can be accessed online such as those on the Mind Tools webiste - https://www.mindtools.com/ and the Conflict Resultion Network - http://www.crnhq.org. There are also some training programs that do require a fee but may be worth investing in or at least sending some of your workers you have deemed to be in charge of resolving conflicts.  Some of the providers of such programs include the Conflict Training Company in the UK - http://www.conflict-training.co.uk/ and Skill Path - http://www.skillpath.com in the USA.  

It can also assist to develop a written conflict resolution policy and ensure all employees are given access to and made aware of this as well as updating this when required.

2. Keeping the lines of communication between management and other employees open

You will be better equipped to manage conflict between employees and prevent them from becoming disengaged if you become aware of conflict or issues that could cause disengagement as soon as possible. The way to ensure there is the least possible lag time between when an issue or conflict arises and when you become aware of it is by developing open lines of communication between employees and managers.  By promoting open communication, you will improve relationships among your workers and, by doing so, increase their productivity.

In order to foster an environment where employees feel they can communicate issues or problems they are experiencing to more senior management, either with other co-workers or otherwise, you can create an atmosphere of candor.  You can promote this by ensuring management take the initiative to have one on one casual conversations with all of their staff so workers feel more connected to their managers.  This is one way to make it more likely that your staff will be honest and open about any problems they are experiencing with their managers.  Management can also make known to their teams about how they have addressed issues they have encountered themselves through appropriate channels - to more senior management.  Setting some time aside in team meetings for any issues people are having to be raised also may make staff more inclined to be forthcoming.  This is because it normalizes the process as it incorporates it into a routine.***

You could also use more formalised techniques for encouraging information flow such as conducting anonymous surveys of employees at regular intervals. You could also provide avenues for employees to provide anonymous feedback at any point in time.

3. Fostering a spirit of fun

Fostering a spirit of fun among your employees can be a great way to encourage positive and productive working relationships.  There can be several ways to go about this.  It can be as simple as taking your employees to lunch or even blocking an afternoon off to go bowling together.  Casual competitions around the office can be a way to get employees to engage with others with whom they may not had the chance to work closely with before.  Some workplaces have incorporated campaigns for being healthy into competitions such as the 10,000 steps challenge - http://www.10000steps.org.au.  Other ways of promoting fun without having to spend a lot of fun included allowing for casual dress days or having a baking competition where workers bake goods to sell and the proceeds go to a chosen charity.

If workers have the opportunity to interact with their coworkers in a relaxed setting relationships among them are likely to improve.  This is because they will feel more connected to one another after sharing experiences apart from their normal day to day work. They may gain an understanding about what others are like that could not have been gleaned in the work setting and this may reduce the likelihood of conflict among workers.  What’s more, studies show that having some fun in the work context tends to make employees more focused, more innovative, less fearful of change as well as being more productive.

So there you have some ways you can encourage positive relationships among your employees.  We would love to hear from you on your thoughts on this topic.  Are you a human resources manager, manager or executive who have implemented a plan that has had a positive effect on your workforce?  What was it and what were the results?

ContractRoom is an award-winning, cloud-based negotiation and deal lifecycle management software system (with multiple modules including contract management) that promotes more agreeable relationships and productive workplaces. ContractRoom is a contract management and document management software system.  It’s an excellent place to draft and store workplace policies and plans for workplace productivity (as well as other contracts and documents).  ContractRoom changes the way deals are done using Predictive AgreementTM. It is a perfect solution for managing all documents relating to your employees such as leadership methodologies, statements on mission and values, workplace policies and other workplace contracts.  

To find out more about ContractRoom or book a free demo please visit www.contractroom.com .

*http://www.business.com/company-culture/4-effective-practices-to-maintain-office-harmony-and-reduce-workplace-drama/

** https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/207196

*** https://hbr.org/2014/10/how-to-get-your-employees-to-speak-up/

Katie Cook

Written by Katie Cook

Katie Cook is the Director of Marketing, Communications and Legal Standards at ContractRoom. Originally from the east coast of Australia, she has a background as an Attorney having practiced in both public and private practice in Brisbane and Melbourne. While working as an Attorney Katie completed studies in journalism and is now combining her legal and writing skill sets in her role at ContractRoom.

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