As a company, Twitter excels at employee relations and remains a leader in workplace culture. In fact, a former manager provided this on Glassdoor about working for the social media empire: “[It was] a company with great people, culture and transparency,” he wrote.
Significantly, this comment was not just about the leadership at Twitter; it reflected the dynamics of the positive employer-employee relations Twitter offers. And the comment wasn’t unique. Stated another former employee: “[Twitter supported] working hard, having ideas translated to building new things and [it] offered promotions.”
It’s no secret that a company cannot operate successfully without productive employees: Leading industry experts identify bad managers, lack of flexibility and lack of honesty as major contributing factors to damaged employee relations.
Yet companies often fall short of showing this valuable asset—their employees—how their contributions are important. Here is a breakdown of three of the biggest factors damaging employer-employee relations and the repercussions they may have:
1. Bad managers destroy great employees.
Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager report found that 50 percent of the professionals who responded said that at some point they had quit a job to “get away from their boss.”
A company that neglects to properly train its managers in task/people balance is setting them up for failure. Donna Rogers, founder of Rogers HR Consulting, said to me, “If someone is very task-driven [and] without people skills, they can drive turnover up and cause a toxic relationship with the team they are managing.”
Great employee relations is a result of actively engaging employees. David Zinger, founder of the Employee Engagement Network, said: “‘Engagement’ sounds like a noun, but it is actually a verb. There is no way to ‘engagement’; to engage is the [only] way.”
Added Zinger: “Engagement is about working on the ABC’s of work: Achieve results, build relationships, cultivate well-being. Damage is caused when we fail to follow this dictum, from a field called positive deviancy: Never do anything about me without me.”
Strategies: Assess bad managers early on. Write down values the company needs in its leaders. Then allow employees to hand out recognitions to managers who follow this “leadership values” statement. Doing so will allow everyone to feel that their contributions matter.
2. Zero flexibility destroys employee relations.
Employees value a company that offers a flexible schedule to accommodate their busy lives. Work cannot be a number one priority if a company wants to grow long-term employees.
Tim Sackett, president of HRU Technical Resources, said he believes that, “Most organizations are stuck in the 1980s version of performance management, which directly impacts their ability to offer employees flexibility in how and when they do their job.”
“Employees want ‘schedule flexibility,'” Sackett said, “but if you manage performance by counting the minutes an employee has their butt in their seat, you have no way to offer this.”
Our changing world has added to the pressure for change in the workplace and how it contributes to employee relations. This is true especially because technology has made work accessible from any location.
Said Jennifer McClure, president of Unbridled Talent and CEO of Disrupt HR: “We know that people have tremendous control over what they do and don’t do in their lives; and with technology, they expect to be able to gain instant access to information and resources.
“Employees will no longer accept ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it,'” McClure continued. “They know that things can be changed—and improved—if leadership is willing.”
Strategies: Set goals for work-life balance by encouraging employees to create an action plan for both their professional and personal goals. If your company doesn’t offer flexible work hours, at least have employees think about how they can overcome obstacles to reach their goals.
One way to do this is to have staff write down something they have been considering doing, but haven’t had time for. Have them divide a piece of paper into three columns and write down all the things that could go wrong in the first column.
Then, in the second column, have them list all the things they could do to solve those problems. In the third and final column, have them identify what to do to get back to where they started if those obstacles are insurmountable.
3. Lack of honesty promotes mistrust.
As a 2015 Wrike study found, gaps in information, and unclear leadership, are some of the top stressors at work. “Employees need to open up to employers about needs and concerns they have,” Rogers said. “They need to build their own self-confidence to have an open dialogue with the organization.”
“It is a mutual relationship. It’s not just about the employer.”
Honesty is always the best policy, but it has to be promoted in a safe environment. Many companies lack the intention of encouraging honest feedback from employees.
Charlie Judy, CEO and founding partner of WorkXO, agreed. “At the root of the frustrating relationship between employers and employees is a fundamental lack of honesty,” he said. “Employers really need to start getting serious about workplace platitudes, like core values.”
Strategies: Give employees a place to share “values in action” stories about integrity. Focus on when and how employees and leadership have been trusted with something, and how they rose to exceed those expectations.
Use this strategy to encourage accountability, and recognize when values are put into action—being careful not to overpromise and set people up for disappointment. Trust will improve if everyone is holding themselves and their co-workers accountable in the workplace.
In the end, great employer and employee relations can be attributed to honesty and integrity in all facets of the workplace. That means valuing “a job well done” and hearing concerns from both sides. Don’t let bad leadership or poor performance-management strategies overshadow and destroy good contributions and workplace relations.