One of the worrisome features of today’s workplace is the fact that it is characterised by strained relationships between management and employees and/or between employee and employee. The souring of relationships threatens to undermine both team work and cooperation. These are two important factors which contribute to the success of any enterprise.
Conflict in the workplace is almost inevitable. Since people have individual personalities, this is a reasonable expectation. Some persons would be difficult to work with or manage, while others will tend to be more understanding, receptive, cooperative and disciplined.
There are those who simply don’t care how they conduct themselves. Their responses can often be sharp, crude, insulting and uncomplimentary.
Employers and management have the task of working with difficult people as they undertake to manage issues of conflict, in the interest of establishing good workplace relationships.
To be effective, it requires the exercise of good management skill and expertise. It also requires that management buries its ego and wisely use their power and authority. Management therefore ought to remain mindful of its role of influencing others, building a strong workplace culture and of encouraging and improving team work.
It is expected that management leads by example. Therefore it is recommended that the process of building strong workplace relationships should begin with effective communication. This is an excellent starting point, given the importance attached to gaining the trust and confidence of employees. Management that acts undemocratically, or put another way, without regard for the opinion of employees, will more than likely sow the seeds of discord.
There ought to be an understanding that the heart of workplace relations lies within the building of interpersonal relationships. It is advisable that any right thinking employer/manager understands that since employees spend 40 hours together at work each week, they are likely to build bonds of friendships which also exists outside of the workplace.
Good employers and managers would attempt to capitalise on this as it could enhance productivity. This is likely to happen if employees sense that there is a high level of good will and intentions being shown by the employer.
There is the tendency on the part of managers to look down on their subordinates. This is so unwise, yet many continue to practice the big stick syndrome. They seemingly derive pleasure in demanding that the employee does as instructed without question. This amounts to arrogance and possibly a level of ignorance. Are employers and managers who indulged in such behaviour aware that they are showing no respect for the employee?
Doesn’t it occur to them that by being so condescending they are eroding both the pride and dignity of the individual? Since respect is earned and not demanded, this type of irresponsible behaviour contributes to the existing tensions between employer/management and employees.
It is quite possible that one missing ingredient in the improvement of workplace relations is that of embracing human relations. Employers/managers and employees may need to address this factor if any improvement in workplace relationships is to be achieved. Employers ought to know and understand their employees, be willing to share information with them, and most of all, make them feel appreciated.
In playing their part, employees should be supportive of each other. Individual help should be offered where and when it is found to be needed. There is great merit in complimenting and applauding a colleague who has done something right or creditable.
By the same token, it is always best to tell a colleague when he/she has committed a breach or made a mistake, but most importantly, the employer must be mindful of the delivery of the message. Moreover, moving to help the individual make wrong things right is most desirable.
* Dennis de Peiza is a Labour Management Consultant with Regional Management Services Inc.
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