Before we can even look at why that is, we really need to work out what we mean by ‘relationships” between the various groups who make up a workplace. Leaders and managers, colleagues, peers, crews, workers and so on are all subgroups within the professional relationship sphere.
Clearly there are nuances in the ways in which these groups of individuals relate – or should relate – to those in other groups at work. But, perceptions also shift according to the socio economic, cultural and even age base of each ‘tribe’.
With no ageism intended, the times at which employees joined the workforce – and what was in force at that time – possibly exerts the most considerable influence on how each group sees and manages professional workplace relationships today.
Baby Boomers for example had quite a strict code at work which – among other things – expected honorifics and excluded the use of first names except with immediate peers. There were a host of other expected courtesies attached to this – and yet surprisingly, this is still the group who are most likely to ‘get personal’, be confiding and initiate ‘family chat’ at work.
Y and Z Generation workers, on the other hand, are staunchly PC, often insular and rigid in the way they fiercely erect barriers around their private selves – even with peers – yet think nothing of assuming they can call the Chair of the Board by his first name… or (cringe) even nickname!
This is just a simple example. But it shows the wide divergence in what is seen as acceptable and good professional behaviour from cohorts in the workplace who vary in age over three generations. Harmony and productivity obviously lie somewhere in the middle ground.
So, what is ‘a professional relationship’ as it applies right now in 2018?
Reference.com defines a professional relationship as “an ongoing interaction between two people that observes a set of established boundaries or limits that is deemed appropriate under governing ethical standards. It states boldly that “establishing proper professional relationships is the backbone of career development.”
And what about inter-personal relationships?
Wikipedia defines it this way: “an interpersonal relationship is a strong, deep, or close association or acquaintance between two or more people that may range in duration from brief to enduring”.
Further research reveals that ‘inter-personal relations” are: “the nature of a person’s relationships with colleagues and those under direct care, management or supervision can determine success in a chosen professional”.
A professional, inter-personal relationship
“is typically characterized by collegiality that doesn’t cross over into over-familiarity or inappropriate closeness. Most professions have standards that govern interpersonal relationships to prevent improprieties ranging from coercion to harassment.”
So far so good. Or are you totally confused?
So, what is a working relationship?
Courtesy of the Oxford Dictionary, we discover that this is “the relationship between people who interact because of their work; (also) a level of cooperation sufficient to allow work to be done, progress to be made, etc.; a functional or effective relationship”
Why are relationships so important at work?
Back to www.reference.com/business and we find that here we’re on far more solid ground:
“Mutual respect between individuals with productive work relationships allows co-workers to listen to input from one another when working together to find the best solutions.
“An individual who is mindful of the impact of his actions on others always avoids creating negative emotions in other people.
“ A person with good work relationships tends to communicate in an open and honest manner.
To create productive work relationships, an individual must develop good people skills, such as effective communication … (and) … schedule time to build relationships after identifying what is crucial to growing such relationships.
An individual can build productive work relationships by being positive, appreciating others and by practicing (stet) active listening… and … benefits from cultivating good work relationships with the major stakeholders in his career and work, such as an employer or customers.”
This is a credo that, regardless of age, status, culture or confounding terminology seems to set sensible guidelines for furthering your career by taking the right steps towards getting on with everyone who comes with your sphere at work.