Building Relationships at Work: 10 Ways to Cut Turnover Rates

Building relationships at work helps workers feel more engaged and leads to a better rate of employee turnover.


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building relationships at work can lower turnover rates

Many employers overlook the importance of building relationships at work when trying to figure out what makes employees happy. Yes, employees are ultimately responsible for creating and maintaining positive relationships with their peers. But employers can help by encouraging beneficial relationships in the workplace.

Those beneficial relationships can have a good effect on the bottom line. Work is much more enjoyable for people who like their co-workers and have good relationships with them. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, employees who have workplace relationships are up to 7 times more productive than those who do not. Coworkers need not be best friends to benefit, either. Just the fact they have made personal connections increases job satisfaction and makes it more likely they will not resign.

People who have healthy relationships at work are more inclined to motivate each other, celebrate each other’s achievements, and let their guard down to just have fun. Positive relationships at work also mean improved personal development and workplace advancement.

According to a 2018 Gallup poll, employees who have workplace relationships are up to 7 times more productive than those who do not.

How do you build positive relationships?

Teamwork is the key to building workplace relationships. The most effective team members have a positive attitude, practice active listening and honest communication, and possess strong emotional intelligence and self awareness. These types of team members are also solution-oriented, respect their team members, and do what they say they are going to do.

Let’s look at 10 simple ways that managers can encourage and support healthy relationships among team members.

1. Focus on developing strong communication skills

Psychology Today defines active listening as paying full attention to the person speaking with the intention of understanding them rather than formulating a response. Managers should model this skill to employees and encourage them to practice it. Better listening leads to greater understanding and ensures that everyone understands their role in completing a project.

2. Assign a mentor to each new employee

Mentorship plays a critical role in career success because it allows newer workers the opportunity to learn from someone with more experience. Companies that do not already have a mentorship program should consider creating one with a strong focus on pairing people from different age groups and other demographics together whenever possible. This also helps workers create career-changing professional connections.

3. Insist that everyone treat each other with respect

Respect is one of the strongest people skills employees can possess. Managers should encourage team members to get to know each other well enough to learn how each person works best. Ask each person to reflect on how they want others to treat them and request that they offer their co-workers the same courtesy. Establishing a company culture of mutual respect also pays dividends in customer engagement.

4. Set up frequent opportunities for socialization at work and outside of work

Weekly potlucks help to break up the routine of bringing a brown bag lunch from home or eating away from the office. They also act as an icebreaker to discuss topics such as favorite foods and recipes. Occasional meet-ups outside of work help people get to know each other in a more casual environment and can spur people to build relationships on their own.

5. Encourage team members to give positive feedback

Everyone enjoys feeling like they did a good job and are appreciated. Managers can inspire this behavior by encouraging coworkers to give positive feedback as often as possible.

Everyone enjoys feeling like they did a good job and are appreciated. Managers can inspire this behavior by encouraging coworkers to give positive feedback as often as possible. They should also encourage people who have a concern about a team member to address that with the manager first. The manager can then take it up with the team member privately without drawing attention from the whole group.

6. Arrange a lunch date between coworkers who don’t know each other well

People who work in different departments have less of a chance to interact on a personal level than members of the same team. Managers can help facilitate a new work relationship by setting up a lunch outside the office and having the company foot the bill for the purpose of the coworkers becoming better acquainted.

7. Encourage team members to help each other

When a person is struggling to meet a deadline or has a heavy workload, coworkers who are not under the same pressure should reach out and offer to help. The mere act of helping establishes stronger professional relationships and willingness to reciprocate.

8. Fundraise or volunteer as a team

Working together toward a goal that benefits others can be a great way to encourage strong workplace relationships. Managers should choose a cause that corresponds with the company’s values and encourage every team member to participate. When fundraising, placing signs around the office can help keep everyone motivated toward reaching the team’s goal.

Related: Shawn Achor’s Advice on Happiness & Shifting Your Perspective

9. Expect employees to own their mistakes

Human beings cannot grow without making mistakes. Unfortunately, some companies place so much pressure on people to produce error-free work that they feel they need to hide it or blame someone else when a mistake occurs. Too much of this behavior will create negative relationships in a hurry. Managers should let their team members know that they need to take ownership of their mistakes to promote trust among the group.

10. Hold off-site team-building events

The strongest work relationships develop in a variety of settings. One simple thing businesses can do to encourage teamwork is to host fun activities away from work, like laser tag or 3-legged races that require people to work together to win the event.

How do personal relationships at work benefit employers?

Positive people rub off on others, creating a healthier work environment for the entire team. Unfortunately, it only takes one persistently negative person to decrease the level of job satisfaction for everyone nearby. Investing in strong teams is one of the simplest and most cost-efficient ways for companies to succeed. Teamwork, a positive attitude, and strong problem-solving skills are all attributes of healthy teams whose managers have invested in them.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of strong work relationships for employers is a direct reduction in turnover. With people resigning from their jobs at record rates, employers cannot afford to ignore this critical area of employee development and manager-employee relations. According to another Gallup Poll from 2018, three-quarters of people said they resigned from their job that year due to disliking or not getting along with their boss. Investing in strong relationships at all levels pays off in higher retention rates and job satisfaction.

Because it’s such a basic “building-block” of company culture, building relationships hasn’t always received the attention and care it deserves from business leaders. Yet if you’re on a mission to create or strengthen your company culture, start by nurturing the individual relationships within your organization.

What are some of the ways your organization encourages relationship building?


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