How to Build Positive Relationships at Work

April 17, 2023 9:00 am Published by

In the past, an employee’s relationship with their direct supervisor was found to be one of the most influential factors on whether or not the employee enjoyed their job. But this dynamic has changed as new generations enter the workforce. Jared Lindzon, in an article about change and work, spoke to analyst Josh Bersin who says, “Most companies, even big companies, are much less hierarchical and much less top-down in their execution than they used to be. Leaders are finding that they have to be more inspirational, they have to be more collaborative.”

In recent years, both the structure of work teams and physical office spaces have changed rapidly. Remote and hybrid work arrangements have meant reduced in-person time with bosses and peers. There has been reduced importance of the relationship with one’s direct supervisor as employee reviews and assessments often include 360-degree feedback and objective evaluation metrics. Increases in cross-departmental collaboration have also created more than one reporting chain.

Relationships with colleagues have become increasingly influential in the perception of job satisfaction. And newer generations entering the workforce have continued to shift the dynamics of inter-office structures. Younger team members are more interested in working together with colleagues on a project than older generations are. Baby Boomers and older Gen-Xers are fine with working in teams to get tasks done, but they have more of a divide-and-conquer approach. Millennials and Gen-Z employees generally enjoy the process of hanging out together to work cooperatively to achieve the final product. And for older generations, Quality Time with their direct supervisor is much more important than Quality Time with their coworkers. The reverse is true with younger generations. They are more interested in spending time with colleagues more so than with their supervisor. 

Here are a few suggestions about how to build a positive reporting relationship in shifting times:

  1. Be appreciative. Bosses and supervisors don’t hear much thanks but do hear a lot of complaining (or problems to solve). Occasionally thanking someone and being specific about “for what” can go a long way in starting to build a positive relationship.
  2. Be respectful. One of the most common complaints I hear from supervisors (especially in cross-generational relationships) is that they feel disrespected. Most of us aren’t sure what makes us feel respected, but we clearly know when we feel disrespected. Having a general conversation with your boss about actions that lead them to feel respected (or disrespected) would be wise.
  3. If you are going to raise a concern, make sure it is specific (don’t be vague or general) and that it is a behavior/issue your boss can address. Don’t whine about management or a colleague in another department, where your supervisor has no influence.
  4. Do your job well. Remember, you are there to accomplish tasks and do them well. When you perform quality work and, at least occasionally, do more than is required, you make your boss look good to his/her colleagues and supervisor.

The goal of building a positive relationship with your boss isn’t to try to suck up to them and win undue favoritism. The purpose is to develop a healthy, positive relationship of mutual respect – which will lead to better communication, the ability to work through disagreements, and a partnership where you can support one another through difficult times.

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April 17, 2023 9:00 am

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