The 21st-century workforce understands that strong and authentic relationships between managers and their teams are the drivers of team performance, employee engagement, and overall feelings of high morale and satisfaction at work.

But like all good things, relationships take work. The actual term "employee relations" has long been associated with HR professionals, pertaining to a company's effort to maintain positive relationships between managers and employees. But we all know that front-line management has the greatest and most lasting impact when it comes to relationship-building with employees.

Did you know that 86% of employees around the world who use Officevibe say they trust their direct manager?

We want to help you build this same trust. We’ll look at 4 important actions you can take as a manager to create positive employee relations.

From flawed to flawless: 5 steps to leading distributed teams

4 important steps for managers to create good employee relations

1. Understand how your team views their relationship with you

Before you can work on building better relationships or solving interpersonal problems, you need to understand how employees are feeling about their relationship with you, their team, and even the organization. This means surfacing things like how much they trust your leadership and whether they feel you really understand their pain points. 

But how can you really know how your employees feel? Our tool can help turn this intangible feeling into meaningful data.

Here at Officevibe, we use our Pulse Survey Tool to measure how employees are feeling about their relationship with their managers by sending survey questions such as:

  1. My direct manager cares about my wellbeing
  2. My direct manager treats me with respect 
  3. My direct manager is someone I can trust

Our feedback reveals some useful results! For example,

90% of employees using Officevibe feel like their managers treat them with respect.

2. Make connection a priority, especially while remote

Be intentional about connecting with your team on a personal, human level. This is especially important now as we no longer have watercooler chat or coffee breaks in the office to build that emotional capital. It’s hard to know what your team is going through and it's not always easy to see what people are living beyond our brief screen interactions. Taking the time to connect holistically, not only about work, is essential for positive workplace relationships.

Some interpersonal touchpoints to help you build relationships:

  • Monday morning team check-in: Start the week off with some social interaction and see what your team got up to over the weekend.
  • Bi-weekly individual check-ins: Schedule time to catch up on work AND non-work-related events. You can ask questions like:
    • How can I help make your life easier during this pandemic?
    • What’s been challenging you recently?
    • Where have you been thriving?
  • Career development conversations: Check-in monthly with each employee to see how they are progressing with their career goals. You’ll notice that the more time you take to build a solid overall relationship, the easier it is to be candid with employees during performance discussions, even difficult ones.
  • Host a (virtual) team get together: Schedule regular moments for your employees to mix and mingle as they would in the office. By scheduling and attending these events, you humanize yourself and show your team that relationship-building is top priority.

3. Be clear about your expectations and needs

Being kind means being clear! No one likes to guess if they’re on the right track or doing the right thing. Ambiguity causes friction. One of the best things you can do to ensure positive employee relations is to provide clarity from the get-go about what you expect from your employees. Putting care and time into properly mapping out and explaining your expectations is a clear sign that you respect your employees.

Document your expectations: By creating proper documentation, you can ensure the standards and expectations you set forth for each team member continue to be communicated within your team.

  • Your team norms or values to live by
  • Roles and responsibilities for each employee
  • Clear individual and team objectives
  • Core working hours 
  • Key work processes
  • What communication on the team should look like 

The more clear information employees have to succeed and grow in their roles, the more time managers and employees can spend developing meaningful relationships and trust in one another—the trust needed for employees to take risks, innovate, and develop.

4. Reward employees with feedback and recognition

When managing a team, especially one that is dispersed, gestures of thanks and kind words can go a long way. Employees want meaningful feedback and to know their contribution is seen! This means there is a huge opportunity for managers to build strong employee relations simply through recognition.

Schedule yourself time to do this: Sometimes, things like giving feedback and recognition can slip through the cracks as it doesn’t hold an “urgent” status. Schedule yourself time every week to send a message or even better, book a call with employees to share your feedback and recognition.

Use a few of our sample employee feedback examples for fresh new ideas on how to deliver feedback and recognition.

Recognize achievements beyond numbers: Take the time to call out good behavior like strong leadership skills, teamwork, or collaboration within your team. Recognize the process and show your team that you appreciate their hard work!

Watch out! Areas that might hinder relationships 

There are times when employee relations on your team may need some course correcting from you as a manager. Issues like disengagement, low employee performance, people feeling left out or misheard, or teammates not respecting deadlines or team values may require you to step in. 

Areas managers need to look out for include:

Micromanaging your team

To help people feel engaged, drop any micromanagement and empower your team to be autonomous in their work. This can be harder during remote work when managers have less visibility on what’s going on.

This article on employee autonomy might help you keep your micromanagement tendencies at bay.

Tip: Create regular feedback loops between you and your employees during 1-on-1 meetings to ensure that they have the necessary information they need to iterate on their work without you constantly checking in

Playing favourites

It is generally obvious when a manager chooses favourites, and it can completely demoralize the rest of the team, ruining employee relations altogether. 

Level the playing field by:

  • Offering equal opportunities to each member of your team (even if you don’t think they would be interested). 
  • Spending an equal amount of time in 1-on-1s with each employee. 
  • Taking the time to get to know each member of your team on a more personal level.

Making decisions in a silo

When you make decisions that affect your team without seeking their input or giving them visibility to the process and impact, employees feel disconnected from their work. Before making decisions, first seek to understand more about how this might impact your team, and solicit ideas whenever possible.r employees

  • Use 1-on-1s to share information and hear your employees' ideas based on their expertise. 

Show employees that you care about them as people, not just as 9-5 workers. Expressing that their fulfillment is important to you, on a professional and personal level, is a big statement that will elicit their respect and keep them engaged.

Focusing on building meaningful employee relations with your team will pay off in more ways than one. High performance, employee engagement, employee retention, better communication, less workplace conflict and ensuring your team feels appreciated are just a few. Putting emphasis on positive employee relations will help ultimately you succeed in your leadership role.

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