How To Handle Different Levels Of Relationships At The Workplace

Relationships at the workplace

Relationships at the workplace include all levels of interactions an employee has with his or her peers, subordinates and/or superiors at the office.

Good workplace relationship creates friendly working atmosphere, which can positively affect employees and improve productivity and efficiency. 

When employees are at war with each other (whether with their peers, superiors or subordinates), they’ll most likely become negatively affected, and perform poorly; conversely, they will perform better when they are at peace with their workmates.

A sign of poor workplace relationship is when you hear employees say things like “I don’t care what anyone says or think about me, or how they behave towards me in this office, as long as the manager likes my job, I am ok”; but the truth is that it’s not completely ok, someday you’re going to need those colleagues.

Below are three (3) helpful tips (from my experience) for building, maintaining and managing different levels of workplace relationships:

1. Use your head when dealing with superiors
2. Use your hands when dealing with peers
3. Use your heart when dealing with subordinates

Use your head when dealing with superiors: 

This implies being tactful, wise, careful, respectful and play by the rules in all dealings (and in all relationships) with those above you in the organization’s ladder.

No matter how close you are to your superiors be sure you don’t ever forget that they are the “boss” and should be so treated. In fact, the closer you are to your boss, the more you should strive to deliver only quality jobs and be much more respectful.

Also, avoid gossip – talking about the bad sides of your colleagues when chatting with your superior. Many times, the tendency is to chat away about other people’s bad sides when conversing with a friendly manager. Even when asked, be sure you are as objective as possible in presenting issues about your colleagues to your boss. You never can tell, the manager may be testing your human relations ability.

Furthermore, be careful joining your boss (or taking sides with him) in a “fight” against another manager, you’ll always be the loser. Use your head. Understand your limits, know your place – a subordinate.

Use your hands when dealing with peers: 

This is more like opening one's hands to embrace another; and it simply means embrace your peers and make them your friends. Trust me, you have a lot to learn from peers at work, and a lot to gain from a friendly working relationship with them.

Of course, this does not mean spending your work hours to play at the expense of your job. But you can try as much as possible to be friendly towards your peers. Avoid issues with them as much as you possibly can, and when issues arise, try to create room for mutual resolution instead of rushing off to report to the manager – that’s what friends do (or should do), friends defend one another behind their backs and scold each other to their faces.

Friends do not climb up by pulling each other down; they rather help each other along the way.

A friend corrects your mistake rather than expose you to the world to be ridiculed. Friends are happy for each other’s growth.

And when dealing with difficult peers, try as much as possible to avoid enmity even when you can’t be pals.

Use your heart when dealing with subordinates:

See your subordinates as family members – your younger ones at home. Show them empathy. Treat them as you wish to be treated by your own superiors. Trust me, many times your subordinates see you as a father and/or shepherd that they follow. Be sure you’re a good mentor and great leader over them.

Understand that they are humans too and can make mistakes. Many times even when they know what to do, they still rely on your leadership, guidance and instruction to get the job done.

Often, subordinates see you as a solver of every problem, you better don’t disappoint them.

Be mindful that always shouting and scolding your subordinates won’t actually get the job done; rather, try mentoring, showing and guiding.

When subordinates underperform, ask “why” and be sincere about wanting to know; and help them where possible.

When they want to explain an issue, listen attentively to understand the difficulties they face. Do not use your “high technical-know-how” to judge them. Help them filter out their short comings and find ways to deal with them.

Of course, you should be firm, disciplined and uncompromising; but also be sure your disciplinary approach towards them isn’t destructive but corrective. 

As much as possible, scold them privately and praise them publicly so as to not kill their morale.

Final Words:

The workplace relationship advices given here are my personal opinions based on years of professional experience in a multinational and multicultural environment. I will like to hear from you – post your comment below or shoot me an email. 

Thank you.


  1. Very helpful tips and very well said.. Thanks

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