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How Can a Leader Build Relationships With Employees?


When we hear the word “relationship” the first thing we usually think of is a romantic or friendly partnership. We often forget that building healthy professional relationships is key for maintaining a friendly environment at work. No one wants to have a job where they are constantly stressed out and where they can’t wait to go home. 

With the development of everything-digital, finding jobs and being in contact with recruiters is easier than ever. There are so many opportunities –  full-time, part-time, freelancing or remote. A healthy workplace is definitely one important criteria when people choose a company over another. 

Having so many options also promotes employee turnover, which is at an all time high. According to Visier, in 2021, 25% of employees quit their job. This proves that employees are paying more attention than ever to their work environment, the “why” behind their job choice and to what makes a good leader.

The Connection Between Employee Retention and Work Relationships

Experienced leaders know that employee engagement should be a priority, in order to ensure the success of their company. First of all, humans are social beings and they need interactions in their lives to feel truly fulfilled. A study by Gallup has shown that relations with coworkers is the second most important factor when it comes to employee satisfaction. 

According to these statistics, healthy professional relationships are more important (71% of responses) than job security (65%), chances for promotion (43%), or stress (34%), with a direct effect on employee retention.

Secondly, employees are the workforce of a company. They keep everything going, deliver quality for customers and grow the business every single day. Building relationships is a prime factor for employee retention. That means, being exposed to a healthy work environment boosts motivation. This way, it will be much easier for everyone to work better, ergo assure customer satisfaction and generate leads. 

So what can you do to make sure you build relationships with your team?

Make Team Buildings Great Again

Team building brings mixed feelings for a lot of people. Many employees feel like sharing personal goals or opinions with colleagues feels intrusive and uncomfortable and many of them are forced to engage in these activities. However, they have so much potential when it comes to building trust and a friendly environment at work.

A team building is a great opportunity for  you to  see your employees outside of the workplace, where they don’t need to wear a suit, or behave in a certain way. This is your time to get to know them on a more personal level, by bonding over similar experiences or tastes, or by doing a fun activity. 

However, don’t force your employees to engage if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. People will feel much more determined to engage in activities with the team outside work hours if they have a good employee experience overall.

Moreover, team buildings don’t have to mean endless conversations and they definitely don’t need to be boring. You can leave the city for a couple of days and try local activities with your team. You can try a wine tasting evening, a fun park, or even an in-office party. You can ask your employees to come up with ideas for your next gathering.

Studies have shown that people who try thrilling experiences together, like riding a roller coaster, are more likely to bond over time. It must be the whole adrenaline.

Make the Most Out of the Digital Era

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have adopted a work-from-home strategy, which makes it hard to properly interact with your employees. This sudden change in our lives proved that organizational resilience plays an important role in business development. That means emphasizing employee experience, being responsive and adaptable. 

The digital world has so many opportunities. Use your internal communication platforms for more than just clients, deadlines and upcoming tasks. Wish people “Happy Birthday” on their special day, send relatable memes, reply with gifs when it’s appropriate, and be the cool boss. That way, you’ll encourage your team to do the same and you will minimize the employee-leader metaphorical gap.

Technology also allows you to organize different meetings online that can recreate team building activities.

Give Proper Feedback

The foundation of every healthy relationship is based on building trust, and the same principle applies when it comes to the workplace. A leader should always speak the truth and give proper feedback. 

Congratulate your employees when they do a good job and celebrate little milestones, like a new client, a great feedback or someone’s one year anniversary in the team. This increases employee motivation, which brings productivity and a sense of purpose. 

However, don’t be afraid to be honest when you are not satisfied with their performance. That’s how they will know how to improve their work in the future. Speaking your mind is key. Constructive criticism is healthy if you know how to do it. 

Be Interested in What Your Employees Have to Say

The boss is not always right. Embracing a learning attitude can bring you closer to your employees. It’s important to listen to their ideas and proposals because they might be better than you would have thought. 

Moreover, be aware of your employee’s needs, expectations and preferences. You can make a form that you send annually, or every 6-months, where your employees have the opportunity to give you feedback. That’s how they would have the opportunity to speak their mind and you, as a leader, can get the chance to make improvements. 

A form might work better than a one-to-one conversation, as people might feel pressured to give positive feedback. 

Treat Everyone Equally

Just because you are friends with one of your employees it doesn’t mean they should receive special treatment. The same principle applies when it comes to gender or racial differences. Treating everyone equally and evaluating employees based on their ability to complete certain tasks is what makes a good leader.

Respect is one of the most important qualities of a great leader and it takes more than just being civil to your employees. It means promoting a sense of inclusivity, taking people seriously and making them feel valued.

Treat Your Employees as Humans Beings

One important quality of a good leader is empathy – when you are aware of what other people are feeling and you try to make decisions that would benefit both parties, these are all signs of emotional intelligence. 

Don’t treat your employees like work machines by overcrowding them with tasks. Be mindful and ask them if they can have the time to take another deadline. If they reject your proposal, stay solution-oriented, rather than being judgemental. 

Don’t forget that your employees are human beings with families, everyday problems they have to solve and other errands. Sometimes they might not be their most productive self at work. When this problem arises it’s important to have an open conversation with them where you can hear their point of view, before jumping to conclusions.

Let’s Talk

Healthy professional relationships are the core of a well-functioning business. Through rigorous research, training and service design, we can help you develop a meaningful employee experience. 

If you want to create stronger relationships with your employees and improve your organizational resilience skills contact us, and we’ll design the best solution for you.



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