BLUF :  I am getting Pushback from my Directs and HR on the very idea that Building and Maintaining positive relationships in the organization is "a thing" I should expect as a supervisor.

Why is this such a hard thing for me to convince them of ?


In short  (you may have seen a previous similar post) 

* Shouldn't a Manager expect "Building and Maintaining positive relationships in the organization" from his/her directs ?

* Shouldn't a Manager expect efforts for continuous improvement in all areas of Job Performance -- including this ?


I am getting employees and HR trying to convince me that introverted employees don't want to have relationships, and that being nice and polite in the workplace is good enough.  And that I should leave them alone to do their day to day work.


Even if I can rate them on "Team work & Professional behavior"  that I can in not expect improvements in these areas if a direct resists.

My argument is that ---

If Relationships, Teamwork, and Professional Behavior are all _part of the job performance_ that they are also fair game for me to ask for improvements.

My HR and organization asks us to set Goals Each years for our employees to have continuous improvement --  and yet when I identify Relationships as an area for improvement Goals I am getting pushback.

-- I am even trying to get this idea written into the Job Descriptions and my HR Dept won't hear of it.

?? Has anyone else tried this ??

?? Does anyone else get this kind of Pushback ??

?? Any ideas of how I can make the case better ??

Thanks for your thoughts.


williamelledgepe's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

I am an engineering manager.  If I try to sell relationships it is going to fall flat.  When I asked my staff to have one-on-ones I did not talk about improving relationships, I talked about improving results and retention - buildling a team that can solve problems for many years to come.  

In your situation, I would be more specific - don't label it "building relationships", describe the behavior you are looking for as if you were dictating a silent movie to someone who couldn't see the screen.  "Relationships" can't be a goal because it doesn't have an objective definition of completion.  

First ask yourself what you want - then ask yourself what that looks like - on a video what would you see - no interpretations, characterizations, or judgements - thinks verbs and nouns without adjectives or adverbs - like a transcript of the actions - drill down to very specific behaviors - then ask for that specific behavior.  

uncleauberon's picture

williamelledgepe :


Thanks so much for the response. 

Yes - I have been wrestling with this and the idea of being specific took me a while to get to over the years.

The fact that I have been using the word "relationships" is already out of the bag.

I could switch to "teamwork" or something perhaps.

Unfortunately, I think it would create a chick-n-egg scenario.  Where I describe the behaviors, and they will keep asking why I want these behaviors, to which I can only respond that these behaviors are proxies or examples of good Relationships.


Believe me, I have to talk myself and psych myself to get out of my office and visit my Employees each day.

During organizational events, I force myself to extend my hand and say hello and introduce myself.

Yes - I too have a very High "C" -- also have a hard time getting the energy and strength to do many of these relationship things.  And yet, I have seen good results and have been convinced that they are part of working in an organization.


+++ On your suggestion about specifics I have been very specific when we do the Annual goal setting.

We really can't measure Relationships --- and yet Manager Tools has mentioned many times how we can attempt to improve our relationships with certain behaviors.

The Behaviors are examples and proxies that indicate good relationships, because they can not be directly measured.

So here are some examples of the Goals - and specific behaviors that have been described over the past few years to my directs.

Keep in mind I am only asking for a minimum of one (1) of these things each year.  I ask that they report back to me Their results - and They have this on their Annual appraisal.  It represents about 5 % of their overall annual appraisal.


* Have lunch one time this year with a counterpart who does the same job (or similar) in another department. - here is $20 bucks, it's on me

* Attend the annual organization Rally and meet 2 new people from other departments.  Introduce yourself, and your department, and job , ask them who they are, their Department, job titles, etc.

* (We recently changed office locations)  Within the next 3 months, meet two (2) new people in this new building, engage them in small talk, find out a few things about them : Name, Job, How long they have been in the organization, hobbies, etc

* Join the the Student engagement group ( We are in a University).  Get to know the students and how they describe their needs.

* Join the Annual employee appreciation committee, play a role in helping organize this year's annual 1 week event (games, lunches, etc).

* Join the Staff development Committee.  Take part in the planning and execution of putting on Educational programs for staff members throughout the year.

* Attend/Participate in any two (2) Staff Development events/classes, and be sure to meet at least 1 new person at each event. Introduce yourself & ask them , their Name, Dept, Job Title, etc.

* Put on a Staff Development event  : Show folks how to do your Hobby.  OR Do a training session for the group in your area of expertise.

* Take part in one (1) of the Organizational Charity Events this year.

* Make six (6) Inter-Office/Inter-Organizational deliveries "In-Person" this year, and make sure to introduce yourself, and our Dept, to the person you are delivering it to or whoever accepts it.  Ask them , their Name, Dept, Job Title

* Come up with your own annual goal, of something you can do to demonstrate (or proxy for) relationship building


If those are not specific enough please help me make suggestions.

Thank you so much for your time.






firebelly's picture

The point of good relationships in the workplace is still to get the work done.  "Networking" is something that Salespeople have to do in order to reach their bottom line of getting quantifiably more sales. But the quantifiable deliverables of an Administrative Assistant in a University Department are going to be different.  How, specifically, does joining the annual employee appreciation committee, for instance, make X employee's expected deliverables arrive more quickly or reduce errors? I think that's what HR and the employees might be balking at.

Maybe if the Administrative Assistant joins a committee, he will be more familiar with other Administrative Assistants in the organization and getting to know them and building trust in that group will make their inter-departmental communications and processes go quicker. That might be a good reason - but your employees and HR might need that kind of reason to get on board.  

My example: I have a "C" employee who much prefers formal emails to casual phone conversations. But sometimes casual phone conversations will make the process she's working on much quicker. So I'm coaching her on how to determine when a casual phone conversation is better than a formal email. 


uncleauberon's picture

Thanks for the input firebelly.

I will keep trying to find more ways to pitch this idea.



* You are correct getting the job done is the objective.

* And your stated rationale is exactly correct. 

I have tried to use reasons like that.

I have explained that idea to my employees and HR.

Unfortunately, they keep coming back to me saying that my idea of relationships is too broad and that such things are only for certain Job positions.  That relationships are not as important to the Jobs that most of my staff does,  it is not "an essential job function" and thus I can't require it..

I insist that relationships are an implict part of everybody's position in the organization.

I have said things like,

Relationships are the grease that helps everyone work better 


The reality is that people will do favors for, or work more quickly for, co-workers they feel that they have a good relationship with.


The more people we know around the organization, and what they do, the more options we can think about when we come across a problem.  One of us might know somebody else that can help.


Some employees really value relationships, helping those kinds of people feel like they have relationships at work raises overall staff morale.


Getting our students and faculty to have even a basic relationship with each of the staff members here increases our overall departmental image and it keeps us in tune with their needs.



I will keep trying to find more ways to pitch this idea.

Thanks for the perspective.

I'll keep you posted.


uncleauberon's picture

Hi - for those that has participated.

I was eventually able to get support from my supervisor and from HR.

And to that end I was able to add 3 Statements to each of my Direct's Job Descriptions.

1 - Performs other Duties as Assigned

2 - Monitors job performance and make suggestions for improvement

3 - Establishes and maintains productive relationships internally and externally to the organization.


I Shared this with my folks today. 

Handed them their updated Job Descriptions and asked that they review them and make comments to me at our upcoming One-on-One.

I explained that there is nothing new. And that we have been doing Goal Setting for monitoring and improving performance and Working on relationships for several years now.

I reminded them that these things have been discussed and shared with them for several years and have always been an implicit part of the Job Performance.

The only thing that has changed is that what was once implicit is now explicitly written on the Job Description to alleviate any confusion.

I hope nobody quits over it.

I will let you know if there was any negative fall out.


LarrySantos's picture

How do organizations today decide who should be let go? Our analysis tells us that most of the Reduction of force" decisions are based on the parameters which most of the time have not been tested, results which are not proven, performance that is not factual and above all includes facial, biased, ethical and many other "unknowns" which HR is never aware of.

ses's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

I suspect that provided you've laid a groundwork of good trust relationships already, and given some warning about upcoming changes, anyone on your team who quits over the JD change isn't someone you wanted to keep anyway.  I'm still trying to puzzle out your HR department's behavior.

Were I in your shoes, I'd try to get to know *someone*, anyone, in HR well enough to get an idea of what their underlying concerns are.  I can think of several possible scenarios, but no way to tell between them without some relationship in that department that allows you to find out what they are thinking directly.

Dimokenchev's picture

My experience was I started donig one on ones without telling anyone, then I basically told my manager on my performance review that my amazing results were due to me doing O3s. He thought spending 5 hours per week for O3s was too much but I told him it saves me a lot of time answering questions throughout the week and restated that my results are great. 
Later on, my whole organisation adopted regular O3s, something I'm very proud of. (although not everyone follows the MT model, it's still better than nothing). 
The goal is results, the method is relationships. Keep in mind you also need to have a great relationship with your superiors and HR/other departments, in order to "sell" them your methods.