Tips to improve the manager-employee relationship

Updated 14 August 2023

Fostering a positive relationship between managers and employees is an important facet of a successful, efficient and happy workplace. If you intend to improve manager-employee relationships, it's important to look at how managers interact with their staff to determine the best course of action. In some cases, a poor relationship between managers and employees can create friction, cause job dissatisfaction and create burnout, all of which affects performance. In this article, we look at the importance of improving manager-employee relationships and offer tips to help achieve a better working relationship between staff and managers.

Why is it important to improve the manager-employee relationship?

It's important to try to improve a manager-employee relationship in the workplace because it encourages a more effective and efficient way of working. If a company is struggling to meet targets or reach deadlines on time, the relationship of the manager with their staff is an area to look at. Achieving a good manager-employee relationship requires excellent leadership from the manager's perspective and an attentive workforce that's willing to listen to their superiors. The benefits of maintaining a good manager-employee relationship include:

  • increased productivity

  • improved employee retention

  • better initiative from staff

  • greater sense of purpose to the work

  • more engaged workforce

Related: A definition of professional relationships with types and tips

Examples of improving manager-employee relationships

Adopting an employee relations strategy that improves the manager-employee relationship can provide a number of advantages, from removing toxicity in the workplace to increasing employee job satisfaction. So, if there's a case of workplace bullying between teammates, managers can take action to show the team that these behaviours are unacceptable. These activities by managers help to show employees that they matter to the business. This, in turn, encourages a more positive manager-employee relationship. There are many approaches that managers can take to improve their relationship with employees:

  • Conflict management: This is an important form of resolution in the workplace that helps to resolve disputes in a peaceful, non-disruptive way.

  • Workplace safety: This ensures that staff feel confident that their employer is maintaining their safety in the workplace.

  • Career development: This shows employees that the company wants them to do well and reach professional goals for both the employee and the company's benefit.

  • Team-building: This creates a sense of camaraderie with staff and brings teams closer together.

  • Employee appreciation: This rewards staff with praise for their work efforts and shows that managers value their work.

These strategies are useful for all types of business, so you can use one, some or all of these approaches to improve manager-employee relationships.

Related: The importance of managing a team through change (plus tips)

Tips for improving manager-employee relationships

A good working relationship between managers and employees is foundational to the prolonged success of a company. To improve manager-employee relationships, try adopting the following tips into working practices:

Foster workplace cooperation

A successful workforce works as a team to reach a shared goal or objective. This is achievable by fostering workplace cooperation so that all members of a team are working towards the same shared purpose. If staff understand that their individual efforts are part of a larger movement, they're more likely to feel like part of a team. It's important that managers regularly interact with their team to promote cooperation and help facilitate teamwork. This shows the team that management is a part of collaborative practices and it encourages individuals to improve their own core skills.

There are a number of ways to achieve this, including:

  • workshops

  • training programmes

  • office get-togethers

  • brainstorming sessions

Related: 8 fun activities at work to increase team motivation

Inspire employees

It's important to inspire employees so that they have the motivation to succeed and work effectively. A good manager is able to incentivise staff in a number of interesting and engaging ways that rewards good work. For example, managers could employ any of the following ways to inspire and incentivise employees:

  • dress-down days

  • raffle draw with prizes

  • gift cards or bonuses

  • free lunches

  • extra time off

When there's an additional incentive to do work well, staff are more inclined to reach goals and targets. It also shows staff that managers are actively trying to encourage work by rewarding them for a job done well.

Listen to feedback

Feedback is a very useful way for companies to learn about what they're doing right and where there's room for improvement. If a company fails to acknowledge any of the criticisms from staff, then employees feel like their voice isn't heard by their employer. If managers ask for feedback and act upon it, then employees feel validated and appreciated. This can go a long way to improving productivity, workplace satisfaction and staff retention.

Feedback is also useful because it allows companies to address areas that require improvement. As employees are dealing with business operations daily, they're well-suited to talk about areas of their working life that need work. In essence, feedback can be a very useful ground-level perspective for management that can improve business operations.

Related: A comprehensive guide to four team effectiveness models

Rational conflict resolution

Conflict in the workplace is a common occurrence, so it's important that managers can effectively resolve conflicts to maintain order and peace at work. Performing conflict resolution effectively requires a rational approach that involves taking the time to listen to both sides of the conflict. Oftentimes, miscommunication is a major contributing factor to conflicts in the workplace, so speaking openly about a situation can help resolve these issues with minimal effort.

There are other approaches to resolving conflicts in the workplace that do a good job of validating staff without causing further animosity. Team-building activities can bring people together to strengthen their relationships and overcome conflicts. Ultimately, the focus is on ensuring any conflicts get resolved rationally and fairly so that managers and staff both feel satisfied that they can move forward from the situation.

Make work less stressful

Employee stress is a major cause of issues in the workplace, often culminating in problems like staff burnout or conflicts in the workplace. Too much stress applies pressure to staff which can greatly affect their work output, mood and relationships with managers. Whether these concerns stem from worries about income, time away from family or additional workloads, stress is a serious problem for employees and managers alike.

Managers can do their part to lessen stress in the workplace to improve manager-employee relationships. This is achievable in a variety of ways, such as offering flexible working hours, improved benefits or more autonomy in employees' working lives. If employees are less stressed, they tend to be more comfortable and confident at work, which improves the manager-employee relationship.

Resolve issues quickly

Handling workplace problems quickly is a good way to improve the manager-employee relationship. It shows staff that their concerns are being heard and acted upon, which makes employees feel listened to. It also stops issues from dragging on and affecting business activities. To resolve issues quickly in the workplace, it's important that staff feel that they can discuss issues candidly and safely. This helps managers identify the cause of the problem quickly and they can work to remedy the issue.

Letting issues drag on only makes problems worse, so creating an atmosphere of openness and safety for employees is essential and helps managers tackle these challenges quickly.

Promote employee advocacy

Although customers tend to make or break the reputation of a company, employees can also have a dramatic effect. With online reviews for employers, staff have more power than ever to shape the integrity of a company's brand, so it's important for managers to promote employee advocacy so that the brand has a positive reputation.

Promoting employee advocacy places focus on the employee experience so that it's a positive one for staff. This includes things like adopting a transparent workplace that's inclusive and listens to employees. If done right, manager-employee relationships aren't the only things that improve. Employee retention and recruitment are also bolstered by staff advocating for their workplace.

Ensure the workplace is safe for everyone

It's important the workplace is a safe and nurturing environment for staff so that they feel welcome. Managers want to focus on ensuring that all of their employees are well looked after and that a workplace is a safe place for them. Doing so improves manager-employee relationships by showing staff that they're well looked after by their superiors.

Ensuring a safe workplace for everyone can take the form of enacting zero-tolerance policies on abusive behaviour or acts that make staff feel uncomfortable or at risk. Focusing on inclusion is a great way to foster a safe workplace for everyone because it supports the entire workforce.

Related: How to be a team leader, with tips and characteristics

Offer staff initiative

It's important that staff have an element of control in their working environment so that they feel involved and part of the company. This means giving employees the freedom to use their own initiative when working. Improving the manager-employee relationship requires offering staff the tools and ability to work in a way that suits them. It's essential that managers establish rapport with staff so that they feel comfortable seeking help and guidance when they need it.

There's a balance to be had between managing individuals on a team and giving them the freedom to use their own initiative. That way, staff won't feel micromanaged by managers but they won't feel isolated either.

Related: When to say no to more responsibilities


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