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  • Writer's pictureJaclyn T. Badeau

Pulse Point – Relationships – “If Your Team is Made up of Humans, Don’t Treat Them Like Robots”

We’ve heard this for years and we can probably relate – employees don’t want to be treated like a number, a machine, a robot… We are human beings, and we’d like to be treated like one. This is just not a desire by some; there’s research behind the importance of implementing this concept into the workplace as well.

Gallup, a leading employee engagement analytics and advice firm, knows that relationships are a huge part of employee engagement and includes 2 questions related to this on their Employee Engagement Questionnaire:

  • “Q05. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.

  • “Q10. I have a best friend at work.” 1

Let’s break down both questions. The first one, “My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.” Here’s how Gallup describes the importance behind this question, “The fifth element of engagement may seem like a "soft" aspect of management, but there are key payoffs when people work in an environment where they feel safe.

They are more likely to experiment with new ideas, share information and support each other in their work and personal lives. They are prepared to give their manager and organization the benefit of the doubt, and they feel more equipped to strike a balance between their work and personal lives.

In turn, they are more likely to be advocates for their employer.” 2

Regarding the science behind Question 10 on Gallup’s Employee Engagement Questionnaire, this one “tends to generate questions and skepticism. But there is one stubborn fact: It predicts performance.

Early research on employee engagement and the Q12 elements revealed a unique social trend among employees on top-performing teams. When employees have a deep sense of affiliation with their team members, they take positive actions that benefit the business -- actions they may not otherwise even consider.” 2

Furthermore, the Employee Experience Index study produced by IBM Smarter Workforce Institute and workhuman, found that “Supportive coworker relationships are also an important driver of a positive work experience. When those relationships are present in the workplace, employees report a much more positive employee experience than when that support is absent (77 percent compared to 35 percent). Our analyses reveal that more positive employee experiences are linked to better performance, extra effort at work, and lower turnover intentions.”3

Assuming we agree that we should treat each other as humans, what does having a relationship with someone in the workplace look like? I know many may initially retreat and say things like “I don’t want to know every single thing about my employee / co-worker”, or “I don’t want to be intrusive.” These initial thoughts are normal but that’s not what we are talking about in this context. Getting to know someone does not mean you have to take annual vacations together or even know everything about their personal medical history (by the way, there are a lot of HR complexities with the latter); it’s about having a relationship at more than just a transactional level. It’s more than just smiling and saying “Hi” to someone in the hallway. It’s more than just asking someone for a report or piece of information for work and thinking “oh boy, they got that to me so fast, we have such a great relationship.” It’s about getting to know what’s important to that person a little more, while being genuinely curious in the process.

Here are some ideas to consider when strengthening relationships in the workplace:

  • Ask someone questions to get to know them and maybe even find a connection (remember - open-ended questions are best, be authentic, genuinely care, and don’t ask question after question or that can be overwhelming). Here are some examples:

    • What do you like to do outside of work?

    • What motivates you?

    • What are your goals?

    • What’s your favorite food (bonus! lets go to lunch some time at your favorite place)?

    • What do you like to do on the weekends?

    • What’s your favorite tv show/movie/podcast/book?

  • Understand how someone likes to be recognized – recognition is not a one-size-fits-all approach!

  • Listen. Yes, listen, that’s it. As Stephen Covey has said, a lot of times we don’t listen to understand, we listen to reply.

  • Practice empathy (step 1 of this process involves listening – see above).

  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone to reflect on a relationship that is not as effective as it should be – once you’ve thought about “your role” in the ineffectiveness, have a conversation and use empathy to develop an action plan to support one another.

  • If you are a manager of humans don’t forget these recommendations also:

    • from Gallup –

      • Know employees as individuals, acknowledge achievements, have performance conversations, conduct formal reviews and, above all, respect their employees.

      • These behaviors build a work environment where employees feel safe experimenting with new ideas, sharing information, exploring opportunities for development, and supporting each other in their work and personal lives.”2

      • Look for opportunities to get their team together for events, encourage people to share stories about themselves and plan for time to socialize at work when it will not disrupt customer service or other performance outcomes.” 2

    • From Employee Experience Index study –

      • “Treat performance as a continuous conversation, fueled by social recognition, feedback, and growth opportunities.

      • Offer employees opportunities to participate in decision making and trust them with the autonomy they need to find the best paths to achieving success.” 3

Need someone to help you dig into this work with you? Reach out for coaching or consulting.

Relationships are a pillar of building or rebuilding organization culture. To assess where you and your organization are in your employee engagement culture journey, download my “Culture Pulse: Employee Engagement Questionnaire” here.

I look forward to providing monthly pulse points to help you stay up to date with how the workplace culture scene is evolving.

Jaclyn Badeau is the Founder and President of Badeau Consulting. She specializes in employee engagement initiatives that help companies inspire confidence back into their team for innovation and growth. Jaclyn’s background in cultivating high performing teams, delivering coaching and mentoring, serving as a global business risk advisor, and facilitating internal and external leadership training to a global workforce gives her the unique perspective of what employees need and what works. She is also a multi award recipient and passionate about sharing her expertise and knowledge in volunteer advisory and leadership positions roles for many associations and not-for-profits.

About Pulse Point

Pulse Point is a monthly blog to stay up to date with how the workplace culture scene is evolving.

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