September 3, 2019
How to Improve Workplace Relationships. The Most Important Career Investment You’ll Make.
When people hear that I’m a sexologist, they assume that I talk about orgasms, blow jobs and sexual dysfunction. And while I do talk about the big ohhh, sexual skills and overcoming common sexual problems, in reality, I spend most of my time talking about relationships because sex doesn’t occur in a vacuum and not all relationships are sexual.
In the upcoming month, for example, I’ll be working with corporate groups and private groups of entrepreneurs who want to improve their relationships — in their homes and in their workplaces, because they know that investing in relationships in the workplace is essential to sustaining and fuelling growth in their businesses.
Whether you run a small bakery or a transnational consulting firm, the who often matters more than the what and how much when it comes to thriving businesses — including the bottom line.
This morning, I sat down with Jeff and Carolyn on The Morning Show to discuss the effect of workplace relationships on business outcomes and how we can improve our relationships — from the boardroom to the bedroom.
Check out the summary and video below.
When it comes to happiness in the workplace, you say relationships matter most. What does the research show?
General life satisfaction research shows that having positive relationships is the most important factor over the long-term. One Harvard study spanned over 75 years.
Healthy relationships are associated with living longer and healthier and toxic relationships take a toll on our happiness, health and longevity.
Workplace research mirrors these findings. Social connections are essential to experience purpose and well-being and they also affect collaboration, employee retention and engagement, innovation and performance.
The same Harvard study found that those who scored highest on measurements of “warm relationships” earned an average of $141,000 a year more at their highest earning point.
What factors make for healthy and happy relationships at work?
Trust, respect, communication and inclusivity make for happier teams in the workplace. Research shows that you don’t have to agree to have a meaningful relationship, but you’ll get along better if you try to understand. As therapist, Shamyra Howard, reminds us, “don’t agree to disagree, agree to understand”. This means that you have to really listen to why folks feel and think the way they do as opposed to considering whether or not you believe they’re right or wrong.
Develop trust by refraining from personal gossip.
Consider the way you communicate and know that it’s imperfect. Choose one thing to change to improve the way you speak and listen.
Foster respect and inclusivity by centering the voices of those who don’t normally get to speak up and be heard. If you’re usually the first to chime in, take a step back the next time you’re in a meeting to make space for others. When others speak up with new ideas, show your support and use your leadership role to give them full credit.
If you have an antagonistic relationship with a co-worker, what can you do to attenuate the negative effects?
Be your own emotionally-focused therapist and when something irritates or triggers you, ask yourself why you find it so upsetting. For example, if a co-worker takes credit for another person’s work and it doesn’t affect you, why does it make you so angry? Is it because you grew up with a sibling who did the same thing and you’re uncomfortable with your relationship with them? That’s something you can address. You can’t change the way your co-worker behaves, but you can work through the feelings that underpin your reaction and this may attenuate the negative response.
What can companies do to improve relationships in the workplace?
1. Create opportunities to socialize during work hours. It’s easy to skip lunch to talk business, so create time for socializing in lieu of working. Just be mindful that you’re not overloading them with work that they’ll have to catch up on.
2. Create opportunities to gain fulfillment as a team — volunteer opportunities in the community are a great way to create shared meaning.
3. Start a wellness program. Support for healthy eating and movement improves productivity and can support happier relationships in the workplace.
You say that relationships outside of the workplace matter too. With 24/7 connectivity, work can put a strain on personal and intimate relationships. How can companies support their employees to develop more fulfilling personal relationships?
When you make demands of your employees outside of work time (e.g. business trips), balance it with an opportunity for your employees to invest in their personal relationships. For example, I worked with a company to develop a travel policy that involved love notes and gifts: each time the employee travelled, HR created a system for them to send a card or a small gift to their partner and/or kids to thank them for their support.
Creating an ally in your employee’s partner/spouse is essential; if they’re fighting or dealing with tension and strife in the home, they bring it to the office and this stress is felt by co-workers, staff and even clients. If they’re losing sleep because of relationship issues, they’re more likely to be late, absent, less productive and combative at work.
Relationships outside of work can provide stability to protect health and happiness regardless of how well things are going at work.