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The Power of Relationship
This chapter gives tips on how to reinforce relationships and thus prevent
performance disappointments—even when dealing with people
you don’t like. Good working relationships are pivotal to getting positive
results and developing team harmony. When interpersonal communication
at work is pleasant, people can focus on the projects and tasks instead
of being sidetracked by poor relationships.
The manager’s intention and decision to form good working relationships
is crucial. Leaving it to chance means ignoring a great opportunity
to create an environment conducive to people producing their best
Your staff know what your intentions are. They know whether or not
you value them as persons or just as tools to get what you need done.
They know if you like them or not. Managers need to communicate that
they value relationships with their direct reports.
What Is a Work Relationship?
Simply stated, a working relationship is a connection between people
who deal with each other in some work way. The association can be
required by business interactions or can be desired based on enjoyment
of productively working together and trusting the other person will contribute
and meet deadlines.
Relationships can be kept at the acquaintance level or can involve a
continued connection that develops rapport and mutual trust. Some
people may go beyond the minimum work requirements and enjoy coffee
or lunch together to learn more about each other’s backgrounds and
interests. Others may choose friendship based on compatibility and
common pursuits. I have enjoyed friendships with both my managers
and my direct reports. Some of these friendships took place only at work.
For others, we chose to socialize outside of work and were close friends.
Sometimes people keep up the relationship after they cease working together
and sometimes they do not. So there is a wide range of acceptable
The word ‘‘relationship’’ intimidates some managers because they
think it implies friendship or getting close to someone. They don’t want
to invest time in a relationship and they don’t want to get personal with
coworkers. In reality, it can have a minimal meaning of being respectful,
friendly, and courteous and getting the work done together. It does not
have to be personal.
Some managers do want to be somewhat personal but want to know
where to draw the line. How personal can we be in establishing work
relationships? One senior executive asked, ‘‘Most people do want to talk
about their kids, but how friendly and personal can we be without being
nosy?’’ Managers do want to play it safe and not offend direct reports.
There is no one way to define work relationships. The work must get
accomplished and the manager needs to create a comfortable environment
with open communication so coworkers can trust and help each
other. The types of relationships developed depend on the people and
Types of Relationships
Years ago I had a friend named Jerry who liked to shop at the corner
grocery store. Every time he shopped there he complained about how
high the prices were. ‘‘Why don’t you go to the big chain grocery store?’’
I asked. ‘‘It’s two blocks closer to your home.’’ ‘‘No,’’ he would always
say. ‘‘I go to the mom-and-pop store because they know my name.’’
Jerry felt good because the corner grocers treated him as an individual
person. He could not expect this treatment at the chain grocery store
where the checkout people would ring up his groceries but not show any
interest in him. He was willing to pay more and walk farther because he
enjoyed the relationship at the mom-and-pop store.
On the other hand, a relationship can be based on the quality of the
work. I have used the same dry cleaner for years because I like the consistent
results. Ownership and employees have changed, but the standard
of quality remains. My relationship with the current woman at the
dry cleaner is friendly, cordial, and surface.We smile, exchange pleasantries,
and nothing personal is discussed. Our brief but regular interactions
deal only with the task at hand—the dry cleaning of my clothes—and
perhaps comments about the weather and other small talk. If there is a
button missing or a shirt that needs to be re-ironed, I bring it up in a
friendly, nondemanding, nonaccusatory way that leaves the door open
for her to suggest the solution. Our relationship is based entirely on the
business transaction. If I didn’t like the quality of the work, I wouldn’t
patronize the shop.
Relationships vary depending upon how much both parties want to
know about each other. Many neighbors have relationships. Typically
they entail showing respect and meeting mutual community goals—
cleanliness, safety, and regulations, if the neighborhood has an association.
Maybe neighbors collect each other’s mail and papers and care for
animals during vacations. One household might have neighbors they
only say hello to, ones they see only at neighborhood social functions,
and others they are friends with. One size does not fit all, because there
are at least two people deciding how much to interact and how much
personal information to share.
It’s the same thing at work. What brings people together is a task or
project. Then colleagues choose how much interest to express in getting
to know about where their coworkers are from, where they worked before,
other places they’ve lived, hobbies, families, travel, and so on. And
they each choose how much to tell. Despite a manager’s best intentions,
a particular employee may not want to discuss anything personal. Even
some managers have said they don’t want to disclose personal information.
Work relationships don’t need to be personal, but they do need to be
congenial. Some managers have mentioned that they don’t want to listen
to direct reports’ stories. But those few minutes of listening can be
the bridge to employee commitment and enthusiasm about the work
and the manager. Taking a little time to express interest, to show compassion
when employees are sad or bereaved or ill, and to feel happiness
for them when they celebrate a work achievement or personal feat can
make life at the office more pleasurable and productive for everyone.
Smiling, laughing, and using open body language show the manager is
congenial. Setting a climate of courtesy and cooperation enables teams
of coworkers to exchange their thoughts and ideas on common tasks.
The better the relationships, the better the chance of collaborative results.
Relationships can make the difference in whether people want to
come to work and in how willing they are to help others. A comfortable
workplace invites people to be their authentic selves.
Pt. I The Secrets to Creating and Sustaining Energized Relationships
Pt. II How to Use Your Process Skills to Prevent and Solve Communication Problems
Pt. III Leading Collaborative Conversations
Posted May 7, 2013
Every business person needs this book! So enlightening. Real strategies and solutions I can actually use to make my work life more productive and happy!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 30, 2011
The color of the cover initially attracted me to "Simple Tools and Techniques for Busy Managers" The Communication Problem Solver by Nannette Rundle Carroll. But after I read the book, I realized immediately the value this book provides to someone strong in quantitative skills, but maybe a bit lacking (or weak) in qualitative communication skills. As our business communications between highly specialized highly technical employees become ever so important, the simple tools highlighted in this book are invaluable, the author has summarized each chapter (well). I use the book as a resource tool when I have a "Communication issue" with other departments in my company. The author, N Carroll, discusses everything from work relationships, to common problems, to especially helpful techniques to solve "people problems". The book is well organized so that you either read it or use it as a reference tool. The book would make a great text in a business communications college course. The summaries at the end of each chapter are the gold in this book (after you read it through the first time) Book is very well organized so you can pick and choose the topic you need to know about now! The author offers up excellent "real life" examples. The book makes a great gift! People I have given this book to agree with the comments I have provided to you. The book would be a great gift to a First-Time Manager!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 24, 2010
This book is an invaluable tool for understanding how workplace communication problems develop and learning practical ways to solve them. From setting and communicating realistic expectations to asking the right questions to obtain the information you need Nannette Rundle Carroll's work is a godsend for managers and their direct reports. One of the real gems in this book is hidden in Appendix B "Communication Issues Unique to First-Time Managers" which is a must-read for new or prospective leaders.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 30, 2009
The Communication Problem Solver provides real communication scenarios and action solutions. The emphasis is on preventing miscommunications by being a collaborative, clear communicator. The book is a cornucopia of actual situations that people face at work and how to handle them in a way that builds credibility and productivity. The book tackles "managing up," which is a key skill in managing your workload, projects, and relationships with others who may or may not report directly to you. It covers clarifying assignments and progress and working together collegially with your manager, your direct reports, and other colleagues. Perhaps most applicable to everyone is the chapter on how to stop judging people so you can sharpen your interpersonal skills and focus on getting results.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.