The manager's role in the manager-employee relationship

Updated 5 December 2023

The internal policies and cultural values of an organisation have an impact on employee relationships. Managers play a significant role in employee relationships and require certain skills and competencies. If you want to build a better relationship with employees, it's important to understand your role and responsibilities in managing employee relations. In this article, we examine the role of managers in employee relationships and provide answers to important frequently asked questions about the manager-employee relationship.

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What is the manager's role in the manager-employee relationship?

Managers play a significant role in manager-employee relationships. Some organisations even have dedicated employee relations managers who often work within the human resources management department. Their role is to ensure that there are meaningful and friendly employee relationship policies, clear communication and adherence to policies by every employee in the organisation. There are many ways that managers can be effective in this role:

Be transparent

Transparency means that employees are able to clearly understand the actions and decisions of the organisation. It's the foundation of all employee relations and is essential to practise throughout an organisation, from the top to the bottom. As a manager, it's important that you disseminate all internal updates as soon as the owners and directors make decisions. You can also establish transparency by communicating openly and directly with employees.

Related: How to boost employee morale in 6 steps (plus tips)

Call for regular meetings

Management can enable positive employee relationships by meeting regularly with employees. In some organisations, communication is only via memos, and managers only meet with employees when there's an emergency. As a manager in employee relationships, your role is to ensure there's a regular system to strengthen interpersonal relationships within the organisation. Regular meetings can be formal or casual. For example, employees might meet once a month to relax, have fun and discuss things unrelated to work.

Show due recognition and appreciation

Due recognition and appreciation of the employees' contribution to the organisation's growth and success can reinforce positive employee relationships. This goes beyond monthly salaries and remuneration. As a manager, your role may include letting employees know, openly and directly, that the organisation values their efforts. Furthermore, regularly praising employees can also encourage them to work harder.

Avoid micromanaging

Excessive supervision of employees may affect their self-confidence and make them see you as controlling. It may appear that you have little confidence in their abilities. This can affect employee relationships with the management or supervisors and the organisation. In a positive work environment, micromanagement is only necessary when the employee is new to the organisation and needs help to progress.

Recommend employees for training and conferences

Good manager-employee relationships can also include recommending employees to business owners and directors for training and conferences. By helping employees to develop themselves, you can encourage them to be more hardworking and increase positive relationships in the organisation. This, in turn, can promote employee productivity and retention.

Related: 10 methods to improve employee development in the workplace

Collect and evaluate feedback

Organisations that want to build positive employee relationships may put in place systems for collecting and evaluating feedback. This shows employees that their voices matter and that they have value to the organisation beyond meeting their job requirements. It's important that you construct effective feedback mechanisms that can help you in future decision making and for future reference.

Discourage favouritism

Your role as an effective manager can ensure that favouritism is absent in team leadership, task allocation and promotion, regardless of the personal relationships that exist in the workplace. Favouritism can result in conflict, partiality and poor work attitude. Employees might speak among themselves while the management deals with conflict resolution on a regular basis. You can prevent this by encouraging open communications and evaluating all employees with the same rubric.

Related: Conflict management strategies for successful managers

Spend quality time with employees

Digital communication, such as phone calls and emails, can help in time management, but spending quality time with employees requires face-to-face conversation. If you want to promote a good manager-employee relationship, it's important to engage employees in personal conversations during lunch, business trips and outside the work environment. You might also encourage all the top-level employees in the organisation to do the same.

Seek their input

Effective employee relationship managers are those who seek the input of employees. They let directly affected employees contribute to employee relationship policies. Even if the policy was in place before your employment, you can ensure there's no bias in any of the rules and regulations. When you seek employees' input, it shows them the level of respect you have for them as an employee of the organisation.

Why is the employee relationship important?

Organisational success requires employees to work together for the greater good of the organisation. Internal conflicts, disunity and misunderstandings can challenge an organisation more quickly than external issues. To avoid this, you can work to ensure a cordial relationship between the management and the employees in the organisation. Some of the reasons why employee relationships are so important include:

Employee productivity

Positive employee relations boost the amount of work delivered by employees over a specific period of time. The productivity of employees translates to effectiveness, timely delivery, time management and an increase in revenue. You can play an effective role in employee relationships by ensuring that there's good communication, constructive feedback and a transparent reward system.

Employee retention

Employee relations play an important role in employee retention. In addition to job dissatisfaction, many employees may leave an organisation because they feel isolated and overlooked. This creates a situation where employees come and go within a short period of time, affecting the organisation's growth and the employee retention rate. You can prevent this scenario by establishing positive employee relationships.

Employee satisfaction

It's important that you design policies that are healthy, friendly and efficient to promote job satisfaction in employees. This means keeping employees informed about important activities, such as meetings, new policies and changes in the management structure. This can help them to feel like they're a part of the business.

Employee cordiality

Good employee relations discourage conflict. Where there's effective communication and guidance promoting friendship, employees focus on doing their job rather than engaging in unproductive gossip or openly talking about disputes that arise. You can promote cordiality by encouraging communication, collaboration, strong workplace culture and a positive work environment.

Organisational growth and success

Effective employee relations can have a positive impact on the organisation's growth and success. It's easier for employers and employees to work towards these when you create an open communication system that promotes job satisfaction and employee retention. This, in turn, increases productivity and the organisation's growth potential.

Employee work-life balance

Organisations with positive employee relationships often encourage a good work-life balance for their employees. Overloading employees with work without time to unwind and recover can cause work fatigue. As a manager, you can prevent this by offering employees flexible work time, encouraging breaks, increasing support for parents and regularly reviewing their workloads.

Related: 15 best jobs for work-life balance (with duties and salary)

What is employee relationship management (ERM)?

Employee relationship management, or ERM, refers to the effort of promoting and maintaining positive relations among employees in the organisation. It aims to ensure that there are positive relationships between employees at the same level, between employees at different levels and between employees and their employers. As assets of the organisation, employees require proper management.

What is employee relationship policy?

Employee relationship policy refers to rules, regulations and practices concerned with the management of relationships among employees and between the organisation and its employees. Employee relationship policies vary from organisation to organisation. One unique feature of all such policies is that they're often legal, safe and friendly.

What is the purpose of employee relationship policy?

Employee relationship policy provides the foundation for relationships within the organisation and helps in:

  • Ensuring discipline: The management of every organisation requires staff members to abide by certain codes of conduct. Employee relationship policy helps employees, business owners and directors act appropriately by specifying acceptable interpersonal relationship requirements.

  • Promoting respect and dignity: Employee relationship policy ensures respect and dignity for every employee, irrespective of their rank. This helps to manage diversity and different job ranks in the organisation.

  • Resolving conflict: Employee relationship policy prevents, manages and solves interpersonal conflicts in the organisation. With the right rules and regulations, it's easier to preserve interpersonal relationships and increase employee productivity.

  • Enhancing common interest: Cultural conflicts inevitably occur when people from different backgrounds come to work together. The purpose of employee relationship policy is to encourage a common interest in achieving organisational goals.

  • Safeguarding the interests of management: Employee relationship policies exist to safeguard the interests of management. For example, a workplace romance can have an impact on work productivity, promote favouritism and create conflict, which is likely to hinder an organisation's success.

Tips for designing a good employee relationship policy

The best employee relationship policy leaves room for the diversity and common interests of the team. It also considers the cultural value, vision and mission of the organisation. When you design a working policy, it's important that you look within the organisation and identify its unique work model, rules and regulations. This ensures that your policy is well equipped to meet the needs of employees, and, if a crisis occurs, the execution of the employee relationship policy provides stability for employees going forward.

Related: Types of employee classifications (plus advantages of each)

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