Employ Insight

The Number One Key to Better Employee Relations!

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  • Research conducted at thousands of companies world worldwide reveals that employees who do not have a “best friend” at work have only a 1 in 12 chance of being engaged on the job. Those same surveys revealed that only 30% of employees DO have a best friend a work.1 Clearly, we’ve got plenty of room for improvement and an opportunity to astronomically increase employee engagement. But how do we tap into this potential goldmine?

    We need to start by changing our attitude. Traditionally workplace friendships are either frowned upon or strictly forbidden. We now know that the potential risks associated with friendly employees pale in comparison to the proven benefits. Employees with a best friend at work are not only more engaged in their job, they are more efficient, stay with the company longer, are happier with their pay rate, and come up with more ideas.2 Sure, it may be true that companies who help their employees become friends risk a brotherly brawl at the office or, god forbid, dating co-workers; but, the positive impact on the company’s bottom-line is worth every office romance incurred.

    There are three essential steps to improving employee relations. Today’s article will focus on the first step.

    Managers, Set the Example!

    In order for employees to feel comfortable becoming friendly with their co-workers, they need to know that the boss approves. Better yet, the boss needs to become their first friend on the job. When it comes to being friends with the boss, we’ve got a long way to go. In a study conducted by Princeton University participants were asked to rank, in order, people they enjoyed spending time with. Bosses came in dead last. And co-workers? Second to last. In fact, participants rated spending time with the boss as less enjoyable than cleaning the house!3
    By changing their behavior managers can reverse this trend and transform their company.

    Managers, here’s what you need to do:

      1. Share personal information about yourself.
        • Your employees need to know that you are human just like them.
        • If you open up to your employees, they will open up to one another. In addition, they will have more respect for you and your leadership.
        • Bosses need to show that they are part of the team. If not, your efforts to turn employees into friends may result in mutual resentment towards YOU; the boss.
      2. Make your first conversation with every employee a quick check-in: “How are you doing this morning?” After you check-in, you can get down to business.

      3. Initiate short conversations with your employees about non-work topics: family, sports, recent news, music etc. Find out what interest them, and what interests you may share.

      4. Stimulate dialogue between team members.
        • Even if you are not directly involved in the conversation, get your employees to talk to one another. “John, I want you to meet with Liz at 2:00 this afternoon to exchange ideas about…”  Then, follow-up: “So what did Liz think about…”
      5. When you hire a new employee spend the first day getting to know her. Ask questions about her life, hobbies, and family. Find out what her past work environments have been like (this will help you understand how much coaxing she will need to become friendly with the other team members).

      6. Introduce new hires to current employees, if possible, plan a special meeting or lunch with key members of your new hire’s team to build positive rapport and get him plugged in quickly.

    This is part one of a three part series. The next article in the series will be dedicated to teaching your employees to communicate with one another.


    Sara is one of fewer than 300 people in the world to earn her master’s degree in Positive Psychology – the science of individual and organizational thriving. Sara coaches managers and executives to create an environment where employees work at peak productivity. Sara’s approach to management consulting is to help businesses identify and cultivate their current strengths, as well as identifying shifts in management practices that will have the greatest impact on employee engagement and the company’s bottom-line. After identifying the most important areas for growth Sara guides managers & work teams through positive change. Sara’s website is saraoliveri.com.

    1Rath, T. (2006). Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without. New York: Gallup Press.
    2Rath, T. (2006). Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without. New York: Gallup Press.
    3London, S. (2004, November 15). Drucker managed to do it first. Financial Times.

    Photo Credit: flickr/muammerokumus