6 Factors That Make or Break Working Relationships

relationships at workStrong workplace relationships are foundational to the employee experience.

Research shows that managers are significantly less stressed when they have solid relationships with employees—and employee satisfaction increases nearly 50% when a worker develops close relationships at work.

But relationships—like the people they connect—are complex. They are made up of many factors that impact how employees feel about each other and their workplace.

Download the ebook! The Relationship-Driven Workplace


If you want to understand and measure relationships in your organization, you should regularly monitor these six areas.

1. Trust

Relationships are rooted in trust. Without trust, you have no foundation on which to build. 

Employees at high-trust companies report less stress, more energy, higher productivity, fewer sick days, higher engagement, and less burnout.

In the workplace, trust can take many shapes and forms, such as:

      • Being vulnerable to the ideas and input of others
      • Having confidence in coworkers and leaders to do their jobs and do them well
      • Feeling comfortable talking about successes and failures
      • Being willing to share honest and specific feedback when asked

2. Communication

Communication can make or break the most precious of relationships. Effective communication means knowing not only how to send a message, but also how to receive it and provide necessary feedback.

Good communication enables employees to understand and act upon important information effectively. But poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, frustration, and even lost productivity.

Our research shows that great conversations lead to higher engagement, but only about half of employees are having them.

Communication is important at all levels of the organization, but one-on-one conversations—particularly performance conversations between managers and employees—are mission critical opportunities for productive communication. Ask yourself:

      • Are your managers having regular one-on-one meetings?
      • Are managers using one-on-one meetings to dig into engagement data?
      • Are managers having ongoing performance conversations with their teams?
      • Do managers and employees feel the meetings are effective?

3. Collaboration

One way to understand relationships in your organization is to look at the frequency and quality of collaboration. In highly collaborative organizations, employees analyze and solve problems together. They know the power and potential of merging minds.

One study found that employees are more productive, have more motivation, and are more likely to persevere through challenges when they work with others on a task.

There’s a certain level of accountability and energy that comes from working with others that you can’t get working alone. But collaboration doesn’t come easily to everyone. It requires a culture of openness, honesty, feedback, and teamwork. Find out where your organization stands in these areas.


4. Diversity and Inclusion

The most innovative organizations are diverse and—more importantly—inclusive. They understand the benefits of unique perspectives and experiences and consciously work toward a culture that accepts and celebrates individual differences.

Understanding employee perceptions on diversity and inclusion can shed some light on the quality of relationships in your organization.

Do employees feel their opinions are valued? Do they think everyone is treated fairly? Do they feel accepted by their coworkers?


5. Respect

This one seems simple, but respect is often forgotten or underestimated.

Respect is the most important factor contributing to employee job satisfaction, but 54% of employees claim they don’t regularly get respect from their leaders.

Respect means different things to different people. Here are a few examples of what respect looks like in the workplace:

      • Giving honest and regular feedback
      • Treating people with courtesy and kindness
      • Ensuring employees have the tools and resources they need to do their work
      • Providing autonomy and flexibility
      • Recognizing employees for good performance
      • Talking less and listening more

6. Empathy and Compassion

Employees want to feel cared for by their organization, their manager, and their teammates. Compassion means having an authentic desire to help others and to make others happy. Having compassion starts with empathy—putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.

According to one study, 92% of CEOs think their organization is empathetic, but only 50% of employees say their CEO is empathetic.

That’s a big disconnect between leadership and employees! You’ll know your organization is filled with compassionate and empathetic individuals when:

      • Employees are eager to drop what they're doing to help others
      • Employees get to know each other on a personal level
      • Managers and leaders prioritize team building activities and team development
      • Employees support each other in good times and bad


These six factors have a big impact on relationships at work and should continually be monitored and measured by organizational leaders.

But how do you measure relationships and make sure they’re having a positive impact? To learn that and more, get your copy of our ebook, The Relationship-Driven Workplace.

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Published July 8, 2019 | Written By Kristin Ryba