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Why I encourage relationships at work

NAIT's executive director of Human Resources, Clayton Davis, blogs about why professional relationships between supervisors and employees matter more than you might think, and offers a tip on how to start building those relationships today.

Why I encourage relationships at work

Published on March 25, 2019
 

Throughout my career, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the relationships we form at work and how they’re connected to employee engagement, development, retention and performance. 

I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying “people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses,” and I agree with this in many ways. When employees develop strong and positive working relationships, they usually want to stick around. That connection also tends to lead to stronger performance and respectful workplace behaviour.

As we continue work developing and implementing NAIT’s new Performance Enhancement Process (referred to around here as PEP), the project team has been talking a lot about the role relationships play in performance, and we’ve been thinking about how we can better support supervisors and employees as they work together to develop those relationships.

The important role relationships play in performance

The first pillar in our new performance process is building meaningful performance relationships and interactions, specifically between a supervisor and employee. This is perhaps the most significant step – without it, the process won’t be much different from how we’ve approached performance in the past.

Let’s start by clarifying what we mean when we talk about meaningful performance relationships and interactions and then I’ll leave you with some advice on how you can start building them.

Meaningful performance relationships are built on trust, mutual respect and accountability. They are genuine and they’re built over time. They take effort.

Meaningful interactions, on the other hand, are all of the touch-points you have with one another. They can be 1:1 meetings, social gatherings, team meetings or other formal or informal chats about a project, opportunity or challenge. The key to an interaction being meaningful through the new performance process is that they are timely, respectful and purposeful.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you have to be friends with your supervisor or your employee in order to have a high performing team – but you should be able to develop some kind of relationship that allows you to really understand what you need from one another in order to be successful at work and in your career development.

Sharing some wise words

Recently, a colleague sent me a Forbes article that highlights why these relationships matter. I want to share something the author wrote:

"Without relationship, there is no trust. Without relationship, there is no extra effort. Day after day, people do not come to work for a time clock. They come to work for a person. And for them to give anything other than the minimum, they must have relationships with that person."

While I know this may not be true for every employee, I’d like to think that relationships are a key part in why our staff report high engagement and why they stay at NAIT.

Where to start

Start by having conversations, formal and informal, and creating opportunities to get to know your staff (or your supervisor). 

Ask questions. Understand what motivates your employees. Be vulnerable. Find out what they need to be successful, and what role you need to play to help them get there.

Here are three questions to get you started:

  • What do I/you need to be? (behaviours, values, character, presence)
  • What do I/you need to know? (knowledge, experience, expertise, practical skillset)
  • What do I/you need to do? (competencies, results, self-improvement)

Building meaningful relationships take times and commitment.

But I promise you, it’s worth it.

Clayton Davis
Executive Director, Human Resources