Julie Tucker
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Employer/employee relationship: Striking the right balance

Creating a healthy relationship between employer and employee is the cornerstone of running a successful business. Achieving the right balance encourages a trustworthy workplace relationship and recognises the importance of people above all else.

When any employer hires a new member of staff, they are not just adding an employee to the organisation: they are also forming a personal link with someone. When employers build a steady relationship with their employees, they are more likely to remain loyal to each other and will be happier in the workplace.

While the degree of closeness in these business relationships depends on both the employer and the employees, the main challenge is knowing where to draw boundaries. Some employers will follow the line of hierarchy, but others choose to create a friendlier bond.

A good employer/employee relationship will lead to greater engagement, a more vibrant company culture, strong employee morale and more success overall for the business. While building up a solid relationship, it’s crucial to consider a few essentials to get it on the right track.

Mutual respect

Both the employer and employee should have mutual respect for each other. Any sign of disrespect is not only bad for the relationship, but it can also lead to a low staff retention rate, as the atmosphere in the workplace will deteriorate.

Disrespect on either side can ruin the relationship. If the employer behaves in a superior manner and appears not to appreciate the employee’s role in the company, this will create resentment.

However, if the employer permits too much familiarity with the staff, assuming the role of a friend rather than a manager, this can blur the gap between their roles. It can also create friction, as other employees may feel this is favouritism.

Communicating clearly

Open communication is vital in an employer/employee relationship – both parties are on the same page, moving forward in the same direction towards a common goal.

In workplaces where relationships are breaking down and the staff turnover is high, surveys have revealed a massive 86% of employees and managers cite “ineffective communication” and a “lack of collaboration” for failures. Without good communication, 46% of delegates have left a meeting not knowing what they are supposed to do next.

In addition, 69% of managers have reported feeling “uncomfortable” when dealing with employees, while 57% of employees say they are often not given clear directions. If basic communication is a problem, the relationship will fail.

Creating boundaries

In establishing a good relationship and getting the balance right, there must be boundaries. Without them, difficulties can arise, such as a lack of respect and a failure to recognise authority.

A good manager can’t be everyone’s friend. Employees need a leader, who can mentor them and point them in the right direction. While a manager can be “friendly” with their staff, taking time to speak to them and getting to know them as people, they can never be a true close friend.

Some leaders cross the line and break down the boundary. This can be because they want their employees to like them. However, when everyone crosses the line, respect is lost.

The best employers care about team members but understand they are in a position of responsibility to coach and mentor their team. Being a good employer isn’t about being over-friendly, while ultimately letting staff do as they please. It’s all about training and feedback. If you’re “best friends” with your staff, it’s hard to give honest feedback or to tell people to do something they don’t particularly enjoy.

Being a leader isn’t always fun. At the end of the day, you must put your business first and do the things that will keep it running smoothly, rather than what your staff want you to do. Employees should respect their boss enough to believe in their ability to guide them towards the shared corporate goal.

While leadership requires an individual who can have fun at the appropriate time, it’s more about being the person whom the team respects. As an employer, you need to voice your expectations and know your employees will do their utmost to meet them.

It’s all about establishing a community where everyone feels they belong and where the shared goals and expectations create a bond that benefits the business as a whole.

HR’s role

For employees in the HR department, it can be challenging to help maintain the balance. Should they continue to focus on employee engagement, even though some policies seem to focus only on profit, such as reducing the workforce, or implementing a salary freeze?

The answer is “yes”: never give up on doing the right thing. Always strive to maintain employee engagement, even when the going gets tough.

Working in a coworking space can make it easier for employers and employees to get to know each other on a more personal level. You can team-build like never before because you have the flexibility to do what needs to be done at the right moment.

In any sector, the employer and the employee are like an ecosystem, where one can’t survive without the other. If a healthy relationship is nurtured, making tough decisions won’t mean losing the support of the workforce, because you will have earned enough respect, as a manager, to guide them through the challenges and come out the other side with the working relationship intact.


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