Common relationship issues between managers & employees and how to navigate them

We seem to be at the peak of the war for talent. Many sectors are struggling to find people with the right skills and experience to join their teams.

Common relationship issues between managers & employees and how to navigate them

We seem to be at the peak of the war for talent. Many sectors are struggling to find people with the right skills and experience to join their teams.  At such a moment, it seems crazy we are not doing more to tackle dissatisfaction at the heart of the workplace. 

Most who become disillusioned cite the poor relationship with their manager as the number one reason. It’s the main reason they leave. Relationships between manager and employee are the key place where value can be added or destroyed; where engagement can be built or broken; and where happiness and wellbeing can blossom or be crushed.

Here are the top five issues which can damage the relationship between managers and their colleagues.


If we don’t keep our promises, we erode trust. If we don’t keep our word; don’t deliver on time; and don’t walk the talk then trust is damaged.  Once trust is broken, it is very difficult to restore it. Often it needs a third party to intervene and mediate.  The only way it is restored is through small steps – keeping promises, being true to our word, and delivering on time.  Trust is all about relationships.  It is shaped by legacy – how people have behaved in the past. It is impacted immensely by openness and transparency. Most of all trust is moulded by a consistency in our actions and through shared values, decency, and fairness.

Being too busy

The busy manager must always have time for their colleagues.  Many a workplace relationship turns sour because managers just don’t have enough time to spend listening and helping.  Time spent in fostering relationships is golden time not wasted time.  The benefits of investing time in building and maintaining workplace relationship far outweighs any downside in the diary. Just like in maintaining relationships in our personal lives with our loved ones, we need to invest time and effort in workplace relationships.  Being too busy is not an excuse. It is a sign of poor leadership and a sign of lack of care for the people we work besides.

Keeping secrets

A lack of transparency and openness is often cited as a reason for the break down in workplace relationships and morale. Too often managers preside over a culture of not sharing information with their colleagues.  Sometimes this is a misplaced attempt to showcase their own power.  The people in the know versus the people who don’t know. It is very easy to find reasons not to share information with colleagues but can be incredibly damaging.  In truth there is so much more to be gained by taking your colleagues into your trust and sharing the good and the bad.  After all, if there is bad news, it is normally your colleagues who hold the answers to solving the problems in your business.  If there is good news, they need to feel part of it and motivated and inspired to build on the positives.

Being over critical

Most people like to be praised.  Some managers find this very difficult to do. Recognition is like honey for a lot of people.  Give them praise and they will respond positively and feel better about work.  The manager who never says “well done” will fail to engage and inspire. Even worse is the manager who sees fault in so much of their colleague’s work but never acknowledges a good job done. Workplace relationships are irreparably damaged by the presence of such behaviour.

Treating people differently

Inconsistency is a killer in workplace relationships.  If a manager is seen to have favourites or to treat one person in one way and someone else in a different way, that leads to bitterness and acrimony. In team sports like football and rugby you often hear people criticise the referee for not being inconsistent.  In the work place it is the same.  You can’t have one set of standards and rules for one members of the team and another set of standards for others. 

There is an onus on managers to invest time, effort, and emotional intelligence into making workplace relationships work.  There is also an onus on employees to invest their own emotional intelligence into fruitful and positive relationships at work.  None of this is a nice to have.  It is the difference between spending huge amounts of our life in a positive, supportive environment and making work miserable. 

In this post pandemic era much is being made of a new world of work. Let’s start by making relationships at work, work!

Jeremy Campbell
Jeremy Campbell

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