How to build better relationships at work

by David K. Williams

Every single employee should be treated with respect.  This doesn’t mean that their behaviours or output is always respected—but the respect you hold for that individual and their unique talents should always be clear.

Many of us might dread the interpersonal relationships that occur in the workplace. This could be doubly true if you are the manager of people who hate your guts, or are forced to deal with a superior who would love to see your head on a platter.  But there’s help, since you’re surely not the first person to have experienced drama on the job.

You may have thought that there was only one R in “relationship”, but writer David K. Williams begs to differ. In his article, Williams delves into the five Rs of relationships, a piece aimed at employers who wish to better improve their relationships with their employees. Whether you are an employer or an employee, it is important to recognize the five Rs so you can work on building a better work relationship regardless of your rank.



Show your employees you trust them by giving them responsibilities that truly empower them and that allow them to grow and feel like an important part of the company. Encourage them to gain new skills, competencies and capacities by hiring from within wherever possible and by giving promotions at appropriate times.


Employees want to know they are respected as people and that their contributions are appreciated. If you treat their work lightly or fail to acknowledge them because you’re too busy or distracted with your own concerns, they’ll likely start to feel dissatisfied and will start to look elsewhere for the respect they’re hoping to find. Every single employee should be treated with respect.  This doesn’t mean that their behaviours or output is always respected—but the respect you hold for that individual and their unique talents should always be clear.

For example, one regional CEO made a practice of berating his employees in front of clients without warning in an attempt to impress clients with his disdain for the slightest slip in performance. In conversations with other executives, he regularly referred to his employees as “the worker bees.” Not surprisingly, turnover became rampant for his company and many have fled.

In contrast, another CEO, while walking past an elevator with his board of directors, noticed an employee in the elevator who had come to work, but was clearly feeling bereaved about a family concern. He stopped the conversation, left his directors, and took the employee’s hand in both of his while he expressed his sincere compassion for the individual, and then made sure the employee was fully taken care of before moving on. That company, not coincidentally, has extremely low turnover and is one of the top revenue-producing firms in our state.


Tie a part of your employees’ wages to the company’s performance. Offer a base pay and then add a part of the company’s revenue and/or profit on top as a performance bonus. This will not only motivate the employees to work hard, but will align their interests with the company’s revenue and profit goals and will serve as an incentive to stay with the company as it grows.  The employees feel much more engaged and part of the company  in this model, which is not far behind ownership of the company itself.

For small businesses with high growth potential, this is an effective way to attract top talent without breaking the bank. It’s also a good way to weather financial storms and to reward employees generously when times are good. By making the fixed cost of payroll inherently more variable under differing business conditions, you can make your company more resilient and agile while also treating your employees exceptionally well.


Reward is similar to Respect and Revenue-sharing, but it goes beyond monetary rewards. Those elements are definitely important as ways to show gratitude for employees’ hard work. However, other kinds of rewards, such as recognition in front of the company, company parties, department parties, family events, employee of the month awards, free lunches with the boss, gift cards, company logo clothing, thank you cards, flowers and support as employees have babies, adopt children, or do something good in the community, etc., help to contribute to the positive culture of the company and can be good morale builders, as well.

Relaxation Time:

Be generous with time off. Don’t go overboard, but make sure your employees have sufficient time for sick days, family vacations, new babies, etc. Remember that it’s their jobs that enable the company to grow, but also remember to allow your employees to enjoy their lives during the time they’re outside office walls. There are many more important roles for your employees than their work-related positions, and they need to know that you honor and value those priorities as well.

It’s good to demand high-quality work from your employees, but don’t demand a continual level of pressure at 100 percent. Give employees a chance to catch their breath from one assignment to the next. You can accomplish this by encouraging team-building activities and building break periods into the day. Keep objectives firmly in hand, but don’t eliminate workday fun altogether.

In short, the objective of long-term company commitment works both ways. It’s understandable that employers look at least a bit askance at perpetual “job hoppers.” However, if you’d like your employees to make and keep a long-term commitment to your company, it is equally vital that you give them sufficient reason to stay.


David K. Williams is an Entrepreneur, author, CEO of Fishbowl and writer for HBR and Forbes.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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