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For managers, positive communication is the key to building a comfortable work environment in which employees can produce their best work. When employees are not caught up in unpleasant situations, they can focus on the projects at hand. Managers should therefore strive to form good working relationships among all team members.

First, it is important for managers to define the type of work relationship they want to have with their employees. This can range from casual acquaintance level to deepened relationships that extend into friendship. Some managers may be intimidated by the prospect of building relationships, but according to the author, effective work relationships do not require large amounts of time or weighty personal investments. At a minimum, they may come down to simply being respectful and friendly.

Individuals in the workplace are brought together in pursuit of a goal, and it is up to each person to decide the level of relationship they want to develop with others. Managers should understand that some employees may not want to develop personal relationships with their colleagues and superiors. In such cases, it is in a manager’s best interest to listen closely to what employees have to say and respond according to how much trust that employee has placed in them. Allowing employees to be themselves and caring for their individuality as human beings gives them the impression of being emotionally safe. This makes employees feel positive about their work environment and excited to contribute to an environment of collaborative results.

Regardless of the exact type of relationships that are developed, the important task for managers is to create an environment of trust and communication in which everyone can work collaboratively and accomplish their goals. The author suggests three ways that managers can build and preserve work relationships:

  1. Communicate with words, silence, availability, and absence – Communicating with words is clearly important, but effective managers also communicate with silence. Silence in a trusting relationship may be interpreted as good listening, but in a less trusting relationship it may come across as indifference or arrogance. Managers who make themselves available demonstrate that the work of their employees is important to them. Conversely, absence can suggest a lack of interest.

  2. Spend quality time with everyone – Having regular meetings with direct reports to discuss expectations or concerns is always beneficial. It is important that everyone is treated fairly and feels supported in their efforts.

  3. Encouraging laughing moments – Laughter is a good way to relieve stress, so opportunities to laugh create a more positive and relaxed work environment. Laughing together at small mistakes may contribute to an environment of learning and build trusting relationships.

Another important component of effective communication is being able to preserve relationships by recognizing conflict as it arises. Managers must be able to open discussion swiftly in order to eliminate potential problems and ensure open communication. At the same time, managers must frame their own statements carefully so as to avoid potential conflict between employees.

While managers can help resolve conflict stemming from misunderstandings, it is inevitable that employees will run across people they simply do not like or who make them feel uncomfortable. Such situations can also result in an ineffective workplace. Carroll offers a five-point system for employees to use to overcome prejudices and overlook bias:

  1. Look for positives – Try to find at least one good trait in the other person.

  2. Concentrate on that one positive trait – Do this until you accept it.

  3. Offer a compliment to this coworker – The compliment should be based on job performance and their importance to the company.

  4. Identify another positive trait – Focus on positive qualities.

  5. Get together with that person – Make an effort to understand their point of view. Paraphrase their opinions, and do not dismiss them outright.

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