But not the one you splatter over your status on Facebook!

Relationships can be with people we choose to know, or with people we have to know. We can choose our friends, but our work colleagues are, like our family, often thrust upon us.

The way we communicate within our relationships can have a great effect on our world.  Shakespeare’s appeal is that he deals with the whole gamut of human emotions and experiences as played out through our relationships which are easily recognised even today’s society.

After all the word ‘relationship’ is merely an extension of the word ‘relation’ which means ‘how we stand with each other’; the way in which we connect and communicate. It is much more than mere ’kinship’; working relationships are much wider and more complex than just getting on with the cousins or the neighbours.

And while we at Trischel are vitally concerned with the way goal orientated communication is conducted within business; we also understand the way that the more relationship based communication is used to build rapport and consensus.

Because if the cost of getting the first wrong is enormous, the cost of the getter the other wrong is equally devastating, but often hidden as its effects can be far less obvious. 

When considering their viability, companies can easily identify reasons to invest in plant and equipment, but may be less open to the need to invest in people. Having the means to develop professional relationships on solid foundations can be the difference between weathering the hard times and going under.

Lack of strong professional relationship are highlighted in the media all the time; the media itself at the moment is a great example of how unprofessional relationships can destroy a company or a newspaper.

But to know how to build strong and dependable professional relationships, we first need to understand precisely what relationships we are actually in – in a working environment that is.

In his book, ‘Communication Management’[1] Michael Kaye describes the various ‘relationships’ we enter into and how the communication changes to reflect the reality of them.

The first is the most personal; it is the Individual to Individual – the one-on-one conversation. But even such a simple relationship as this can have a variety of shades. For instance is the one-on-one with a friend, colleague or manager?  The changing status of the person who we are talking to, affects the way in which we communicate.

We would take a much different approach to a disciplinary discussion with our manager if we were the subject to be disciplined, rather than if it were someone else. We take a far more formal approach with superior status people than we do with our personal friends or our peers. But within a one-on-one communication process we are usually far more willing to be open and willing to disclose. 

But of course there are different emotional levels which are evolved through professional relationships; some people we are prepared to just get along with; there are others that we quite like, and then those that we like very much.  How open and engaging we are, even in a professional capacity, can depend upon that emotional response.

Trust is an outcome of relationships build on positive communication.

Another type of Individual communication that we often engage in is the Individual to Group.  When was your last interview?  More and more interviews are being conducted by a panel to avoid any subtle bias, so our next promotion interview is more likely to be this kind of relationship.

Reporting to a committee; being the chairman of a business meeting or undertaking a presentation or a training session are all examples of an Individual conducting a communication process with a group. And the dynamics are now much different.

This style of communication is likely to be more formally structured and there can be specific, if unspoken, rules of conduct.  These become more obvious in task orientated groups rather than the more open brain storming sessions.

In some instances the status differences can be overturned.  If an individual is a recognised expert on a subject he may be asked to brief senior managers; in which case some of those unspoken rules of conduct are invoked.  Otherwise this individual may be subjected to a silent pressure to conform to accepted attitudes and opinions, even if that pressure is only in perception.

Such tacit pressure is behind the phenomenon known as ‘Groupthink’; and many companies now prefer to contract out such expert training to avoid the temptation.

So while we may not be in the kind of ‘relationship’ that our friends on facebook are interested in; it is obvious that the professional relationships that we build at work do have a real impact on the effectiveness of our ability to create a harmonious working place, and also on the company’s ability to achieve its goals.

But wait, there’s more! And next time I’ll look at some of the other types of relationships developed within organisations and how our communication changes.  With each change of relationship we increase our risk of misunderstanding it and getting it wrong.

See you then.

Michele @ Trischel

[1] Kaye, Michael (1994) Communication Management, Sydney, Australia, Prentice Hall Pty Ltd 

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