Great business leaders and human resources professionals know the benefits of effective working relationships. These are relationships between co-workers, managers and staff, and employees with the public. Positive interactions increase good feelings, increase morale and improve work satisfaction. Negative interactions create confusion, anxiety, tension and uncertainty, which adversely affect work efficiency and company productivity. As a business leader, don't leave workplace interactions to chance. Take the time and energy to help everyone in the organization develop the skills for positive interactions, whenever possible. There are many benefits to having effective working relationships.
Productivity Resulting From Interaction
When people are happy at work, they tend to do a better job. Errors are reduced, productivity increases and customer service improves. Having great office interaction also improves teamwork, which makes an entire team more efficient during times of high stress, such as holiday sales or end-of-year report production.
It doesn't matter what your company does, what product or service it provides, good interaction means that people are having positive experiences. What are some examples of positive interactions?
Positive interactions start with basic pleasantries. These include answering the phones in a professional, pleasant way, keeping in mind the old school idea that people can "see your smile" over the phone. A positive interaction also starts with greeting people who are walking into the establishment, perhaps even opening the door for them, as they enter.
But interaction goes well beyond politeness and communication between people. Interaction is an experience that other workers and consumers have when working with someone for a short time or for an extended period of time. For example, look at a typical office dynamic. If Jane's job is reliant upon Joe completing his tasks and upon handing the file over to her, she will have a positive interaction experience with him, if he is on time consistently, is efficient, and has few errors. Conversely, she would have a negative experience if he is always late, hands her his files, complete with gaps and errors, and is rude in the process.
The latter scenario could lead to a long-term negative experience that increases Jane's anxiety about getting work done, as well as having animosity in dealing with Joe and even poor performance, as she tries to meet deadlines, even though she was not given a full time frame to complete her job. That's why workplace interaction is so important. The benefits of effective working relationships always outweigh the cost of developing those relationships.
Develop Company Morale
The morale of your employees is directly related to the types of interactions they get on a regular basis. As you can see from the example of Jane and Joe, working with people who consistently create negative interactions leads to long-term morale issues, which leaves employees feeling that no one cares whether or not anyone does their job. This "why bother" attitude is infectious in offices and in operation centers. The best way to resolve this is to prevent it, as much as is possible.
Developing positive company morale among all employees is no easy task. It requires business leaders who take into consideration employees' talents, workloads and their general personality traits. It also requires that business leaders examine the processes and procedures to try to find areas in which gaps or backlogs frequently happen.
When a business leader is able to define what's working and what's not, he can establish systems to increase daily positive interactions in the office. A system may be something as simple as giving positive feedback to a telemarketing team. Typically, these departments have negative interactions all day from call recipients; altering the energy in the call center with upbeat music, leadership enthusiasm and positive reinforcement prevents telemarketers from falling into negative patterns. This helps keep office productivity up.
Consumer Satisfaction Results
A business leader should think like a consumer and get into that mindset, when developing policies that affect people. Businesses do this when developing a product or service, and they should place the same importance on communication and on interaction skills.
Think about the last time you walked into a large store. Did you feel like a mere number in a sea of others who were also searching and seeking solutions? If you did, chances are your interactive experience with this store started negatively. Unless someone greets you with a smile or asks if you need assistance, you are left on your own, perhaps wondering what the role of the employees really is. The benefits of effective working relationships when customers are concerned means that customers feel they are being served.
When employees are knowledgeable and passionate about helping, consumers feel this. Employees can also tell when someone is stressed and overworked. Being in that state doesn't create a positive customer experience. Sometimes, this isn't the fault of the worker. If a company is understaffed, one person may be juggling too many things. No matter how much he wants to help and no matter how much he tries, he just can't do it all. Customers sense this, and this leads to a negative interaction with the company - not the worker per se.
This is why managers must pay attention to employee workload, employee capabilities and workflow to make sure that the employees can facilitate positive interactions with the company.
Facilitating Positive Interactions
As already mentioned, an environment and company culture of positive interactions are not achieved by accident. Google works very hard to create a corporate culture where employees feel that they can have a personal life, can adjust their schedules and can work on projects that they are passionate about. This has created a corporate culture, in which innovation, creativity and passion are the underlying components of success for the company. Google is proud of its loyal employees who love to go to work.
You can further facilitate positive interactions within your own organization by modeling behaviors that result in great experiences. As the boss, do you take a moment to ask how your team's weekend was? Do you hold team meetings or one-on-one consultations regularly, so that you may discover and address any issues that your team is experiencing? People can tell when someone cares and who takes the time to understand team members' goals, challenges and interests, which may help you facilitate positive interactions among your team.
Training and Policies
Employees might look at a negative situation and feel that there is nothing you can do to change how others act or how they do their job. Essentially, employees might be mistaken in thinking that you can't take a negative scenario and transfer it into a positive interaction for everyone.
Start with developing positive policies that include rules about work habits, punctuality, dress code and communication. Set policies in which processes must be followed because it helps keep things organized and flowing, which enables positive momentum. Then, hold training about communication, inclusiveness and team building. Training should give people information to absorb, as it teaches them the importance of good communication. But this process then needs to step up as it transforms into everyday practice, with role-playing and procedures for implementing these practices. Employees may feel silly engaging in role playing, but this is a critical exercise as to how to learn new communication skills.
As you give your employees an increasing number of skills, which enable them to deal with problems in the workday or the gaps in their own skill set, you increase the chances for the team to have a greater number of positive interactions. Team-building exercises can transform a negative dynamic between two employees who did not understand each other before the exercises, into a dynamic in which these two employees walk away from the exercise with a new appreciation of the other's point of view. These types of training programs must reinforce policies and procedures that enhance positive interactions. This is an ongoing process for every employee and business leader.
Potential Risks of Fraternization
When employees are enjoying working together, it is highly likely that friendships and even romantic relationships develop. While an employer wants employees being friendly, bringing too much out-of-office personal stuff into the office can lead to negative interactions in the office. This, of course, has a negative effect on team morale and productivity.
The first risk to consider with fraternization is the distraction it creates. Employees are likely to meet and talk during work hours, and might not address work tasks. This action could create animosity among coworkers, who must hold down the fort, while their colleagues are nowhere to be found. It also means that those employees are not getting done what you are paying them for. Teams may feel favoritism, and bad feelings can occur, as a result of the imbalance.
On the more serious side, when a relationship ends acrimoniously, it is very likely that anxiety and tension resulting from that acrimonious end will permeate throughout the department. Gossip and even sabotage can occur, if one party seeks revenge on the other. This can directly harm co-worker and client relationships. It can also lead to very serious allegations, especially if the relationship was between a superior and subordinate.
Some sexual harassment allegations and lawsuits stem from a consensual relationship ending badly. The manager is often accused of abusing his level of power, and could face serious legal action, as well as dismissal. Other sexual harassment allegations and lawsuits stem directly from uninvited, unwarranted harassment on the part of the abuser.
Explain the importance of warning colleagues of problems and changes that may affect them. When a company and its team have each others' backs, trust increases and builds stronger teams.
Surveying and Evaluating Interaction
Building an environment of positive interaction takes time and energy. Becoming complacent leaves room for negative habits and issues to arise that become like cancer within an organization. Negativity travels and is absorbed faster than positivity; thus, business leaders must be vigilant to maintain positive energy.
There are several ways to evaluate the morale of the company. Team meetings should be more than simply reviewing data. Take the time to ask for feedback on what your team is experiencing, good or bad. Ask questions and seek solutions from them. You can also get a lot of information by looking around the room in a team meeting.
Observe who is always speaking up to determine if anyone seems to want to speak but hesitates. This is why one-on-one meetings help the survey process. Getting feedback in a dynamic where people are not intimidated by others frees up the conversation and actually makes that a positive interaction for employees seeking to find a voice. Even an anonymous "suggestion box" helps give everyone a voice, and is a positive interaction.
Once you have the feedback, you need to evaluate what is really going on. This requires reading between the lines in some circumstances. If someone is upset that another worker isn't doing her job properly, you could assume that this person is not capable, or you could evaluate her performance. Evaluating performance could show that simple training issues could resolve the issue by making everyone happier. It could also show that the person complaining was actually the center of the problem and was redirecting attention away from himself.
Finding a way to boost your team whenever possible, streamline its workflow or make something just plain easier will always yield positive interactions. While you cannot control every personality and every interaction, you can set the environment the leads to success for everyone. When the team is experiencing more positivity, the company bottom line usually increases, as well.