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How to Improve Relationships with Employees

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I hear people say all the time you can’t be friends with employees or coworkers. People say there needs to be a cut-off point in order for them to respect you. I feel that’s just wrong. How is anyone going to respect you or follow you if you treat them like they’re on a different level than you? You’re a normal person just like them. You have a job to do just like them. Your job just happens to be a little different.

The employee-employer relationship is a complicated one, but it doesn’t have to be. Treating employees the right way, and having a strong relationship, has so many benefits. If your relationship is strong then people will want to work for you and they will tell other people where they work. They’ll want to come and do a good job for you. They’ll be happier at work, which in turn will make the work product that much better.

To improve your relationship with your team, try these three things .

  • Treat everyone with kindness. You don’t have to like everyone you work with, but you have to be friendly with everyone and kind to everyone.

  • Ask people about themselves and care about what they’re saying.

  • Let people into your life, as well. Making connections with people is easier than you think.

Being kind and friendly with people at work is sometimes hard to do and, sometimes it gets pushed to the back burner with the hustle and bustle of our industry. If you keep it at the forefront of your mind, and practice it in your personal lives, as well, it truly becomes very easy. Start by saying good morning to everyone everyday. It takes two seconds. Some people aren’t morning people, and you’ll start to learn that when you say hello to Angela in the paint shop they may just nod, but when you say it to Steve in accounting he’s bubbly and says it back. Learn how each person wants to be interacted with in the morning. 

Don’t get frustrated if some people don’t react the same way. I promise you they’ll all remember it and appreciate you for it. Growing up and working in my father’s body shops, I remember all the people used to tell me no matter what was going on, who he was with, or what he was doing, my dad always said hello to everyone and greeted them. It meant so much to the team, and it’s a practice I’ve adopted ever since. 

The other story that stands out to me about kindness is a from a gentleman who sold us his shop. We were sitting out under a big oak tree talking to all the employees. This gentleman, who was getting his knee replaced within a week, noticed one of the ladies was swatting at bugs and getting bit by mosquitoes. He hobbled and limped all the way to his truck and back to get her bug spray. It had to hurt him like hell. That person had worked for him for 15 years. I can see why.

Next, throughout the day, try to ask people about how their lives are, and actually listen to what they say. Everyone is going through something you have no idea about. A quick, “How are you?” could make someone’s day. Try to build off the first conversation. If someone says they’re fixing a fence this weekend, on Monday ask them how it went. If someone says their child has basketball every Wednesday, then, next Thursday ask them how their kid did. One of my mentors, the late Steve Laszlo, had a ton of responsibilities from running the shops, to I-CAR commitments, to his family. I don’t know how he kept up. But, what was amazing about Steve is he remembered everything. He found a way to connect with each and every person he met. If you told him your son was going to a camp, or your daughter was taking guitar lessons, he would find a way to connect and make it personal. The next time he saw you he’d say, “How was your daughter’s camp? Your boy getting the hang of that guitar?” It made a lasting impression on his team, and they respected him more because of it.

Lastly, let people into your life, as well. You don’t have to invite them over for dinner or catch a game with them, but if they know you’re a regular person outside of work, it helps. Simple things as to what teams you like to root for, what your hobbies are, or where you’re can help bridge the gap and improve relationships. I have bonded with one manager over our dogs. Another manager and I would bring each other different beers to try. We had another manager who mentored kids and worked with them to help them grow. I let him know I used to volunteer my time to coach some teams for some local kids. It’s simple things like these that make real relationships between people. Not just the artificial ones that comes from being the boss or the manager.

Improving relationships with employees will increase morale and productivity. It will make each workday more enjoyable, because it’s better to be around people you connect with instead of those you don’t. Once you start handling things this way you’ll never go back.


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