Monday, April 22, 2024

The Power of Relationships

by Cate Murden, Founder and CEO of PUSH

Why a disconnect between employers and employees is wreaking havoc on businesses

Since the pivot to remote and hybrid working, employees, managers and C-suite have been seeking to recreate in-office experiences virtually.

If we’re honest, most of these attempts have been somewhat shallow (as the data shows). Zoom calls, team huddles and virtual drinks come from a place of good intention, but fail to address the underlying emotional dynamics that people need – regardless of whether they are working in isolation or in a busy office. 

The truth is, there’s now a notable disconnect between managers and employees. For example, a recent survey we commissioned found 75% of managers think their team prioritises work “more than” or “the same” as pre-pandemic, yet the data shows “work” has fallen as the “most important issue to employees” by more than 54% since the pandemic began.

Such a high degree of misunderstanding spells trouble. This oversight in awareness is only compounded by further issues with communication between managers and employees. 

When communication is broken, relationships are broken. This then bleeds into far more substantial issues such as trust. 

While the pandemic has caused many global organisations to restructure how, where and when employees work, they have simultaneously failed to provide the personal support necessary to cultivate strong relationships between individuals and teams. The impact of this is now being felt.

In short, action is needed. And it’s needed fast.

Where is the support when people need it most?

It is clear this friction has come from organisational structures.

When managers no longer trust their employees to do the work required, and when employees don’t trust their managers to get the best out of them, organisational effectiveness will stagnate and decline. Something needs to change. 

But why is this happening now?

The role of the manager has changed from product manager to people leader. Managers now have to contend with a host of competing issues, from employees’ mental health struggles to ensuring people develop and grow in a remote environment. 

A conscious effort must be made to provide support to people when they need it most. Given the mental, emotional and physical toll of the pandemic, it’s unrealistic for organisations to expect that managers and employees can navigate this new workenvironment and simply figure it out on their own. The disconnect our research demonstrates only exists because managers have been left to figure it out on their own for too long. 

Without also empowering employees with the right tools, strategies and skill sets, it’s very hard for even the best manager to overcome the breakdown in connection. But it can be solved with more guidance, support and training. How to build relationships, how to manage mental health and how to drive performance are just a few of the managerial skills that need updating for this new world of work.

The value of relationship with self 

We are living at a time of immense change. The pandemic flipped the dominant working model on its head, causing people to reassess what matters most to them. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the rise of “self-care”.

While “work” has declined in its significance since the pandemic, “self-care” has gone from being a fringe concern (24%) to the most important priority for employees today (56%). 

This demonstrates, in no uncertain terms, that people now recognise the need to look after themselves.

Organisations are complex structures with many layers, facets and components. However, at the heart of everything lies people. As the saying goes, “When a person is right, their world will be right”. 

In other words, if an organisation can ensure a person has the skills, behaviours and strategies necessary to thrive on a personal level, then team and company-wide success will naturally follow.

Interpersonal relationships are incredibly important for the success of companies and the wellbeing of employees. However, it’s the relationship with oneself that truly matters most. This defines how we see the world, how we interact with others and how we respond to external situations and events.

A strong, self-confident and able individual is less impacted by external situations, events and people. Moreover, these individuals are able to quickly adapt and see change not as a frightening prospect, but as an opportunity for growth and development. That confidence can and should be learnt. Once you do it is like having a superpower. 

In light of this new working environment – where many professionals spend the vast majority of their time alone in a home office, kitchen or bedroom – organisations have an incentive and responsibility to support and foster self-care.

To solve this requires a total rethinking of the behaviours, attitudes and skill sets one needs to prosper in a radically new work culture. Self-care is central to this. And no, I’m not talking about face masks and green juice. Self-care is also knowing how to connect, how to re-energise, how to self-motivate, how to stick to our goals, how to navigate volatility. This is what looking after yourself really means. 

A holistic approach is needed – one that addresses the relationship with self and each other. When these relationships are proactively cared for, it lays the groundwork for a safe working environment where people can show up as they are and be their true selves.

Organisations must take proactive steps to instil a growth mindset at work, and lay out the behaviours and skills that people need to grow and prosper in our new world of work. 


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