Employ Insight

The Number Two Key to Better Employee Relations!

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  • Research conducted at thousands of companies 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 the way we communicate. Traditionally workplace communication has been “strictly business.” However, in order to cultivate loyal, engaged employees we need to communicate as people first, and employees second.

    There are three essential steps to improving employee relations. My last article focused on the first step: Managers, Set the Example!

    Today’s article will focus on the second step:

    Teach Your People to Communicate!

    In order for employees to trust one another and work efficiently together, they must communicate effectively. Like preschools, companies should seek out applicants whose resume indicates: “Plays well with others.” Unfortunately, many of the basic interpersonal skills we learn in preschool are long gone by the time we enter the corporate world. A few basic communication practices have been proven by psychologist John Gottman to create what he calls “Positive Sentiment Override”. “Positive Sentiment Override” means that when one member of a partnership does or says something negative, the other member of that partnership will give the other person benefit of the doubt, instead of jumping to conclusions.2

    For example, if Positive Sentiment Override exists in your relationship with a co-worker, when that co-worker snaps at you for arriving two minutes late to a meeting one morning, you will think to yourself: “He must be having a stressful day.” Instead of: “He’s such an asshole.” Positive Sentiment Override enables teams to thrive during difficult times. Although most of Gottman’s research has been conducted on romantic partners, Gottman has also studied the relationship between co-workers. Not surprisingly, his research reveals that the best communication practices remain the same whether you are communicating with your co-worker or with your wife.

    The communication practices below will improve your work team’s performance and resilience during difficult times:

    1. Never ignore.
      • It is always tempting to ignore the co-worker, or employee who wants to speak when you don’t have time. However, ignoring leads to distrust. If you are too busy to chat or respond – simply say so. Instead of pretending you didn’t hear someone.
      • Do not wear headphones or any other noise blocking device at the office, unless it is so noisy that you cannot concentrate without.
    2. Say “Good Morning,” or whatever variation of the greeting you prefer.
      • The first time to see someone for the say – greet them, whether you are just passing by or seeking them out to talk business. It only takes 2 seconds to say “Good Morning Bob!” “Now about this proposal …”
    3. Stay in touch.
      • Plan a weekly or monthly check-in meeting for teams. Depending on the size of your office, these meetings may be broken down into smaller team meetings. It is important that co-workers stay in the loop on the workload of their teammates, even regarding projects on which they do not work together.
      • Managers, schedule a monthly meeting or lunch with each employee that reports to you directly. Catch up on what is going on in your employee’s life. As a manager it is important that you know if your employee is experiencing a great deal of stress at home.
    4. Say Thank You!
      • Keep an eye out for what your co-workers, employees, or managers are doing right.
      • Say Thank You, or let them know when you notice a job well done. We are usually excellent at noticing and pointing out what others do wrong. Rarely, do we notice and hand out praise for a job well done.

    These simple communication skills will not only help employees to work more effectively together, they will help ensure that work teams remain productive when they come across a challenge such as layoffs or a strained economy.

    This is part two of a three part series. The next article in the series will be dedicated to creating opportunities for employees to connect.

    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.

    2Gottman, J., & DeClare, J.(2001). The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships. New York: Three Rivers Press.

    Photo Credit: flickr/krossbow