The 4 pillars of employee relations

Written by: the Officevibe Content Team
Published on April 4, 2017 | Reading time: 5m

Many organizations boast that their employees are their company’s most valuable asset, however, there is still a prevalence of employee relations issues in the workforce that is stopping employees from reaching their full potential.

This is detrimental to the company as when an employee has a bad relationship with their manager, either founded in fear or lack of trust, they risk becoming disengaged.

Much of the time, many of these issues can be resolved through the antidote of proper communication.

Before we continue to learn more about employee relationships and how to fix the problem…

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Employee relations definition

First, it’s important to understand what employee relations really means, and why it’s important.

Employee relations, known historically as industrial relations, is concerned with the contractual, emotional, physical and practical relationship between employer and employee.

Essentially, it alludes to the relationship between manager and employee, and it can either be one that is founded in mutual respect, appreciation, and trust, or fear and lack of transparency.

Companies want to avoid the latter, as employees that don’t feel connected with their manager often feel less compelled to perform at their best.

Employee relations also references the efforts that a company makes, typically an HR department to manage the relationships between managers and employees. A good employees relation program ensures that all employees are treated fairly, helps to strengthen relationships between employee and managers, and help to remediate problems that surface between them.

Importance of employee relations

Having good employee relations is crucial to every company, as when employees and managers share a positive relationship, employee engagement, productivity, motivation and morale are high.

Employees who get along with their manager and enjoy rather than feel anxious about going to work in the morning have a better overall work experience. Happy employees work harder, produce better work, and ultimately keep the customer happy and the business thriving.

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The four pillars of employee relations

Here are four simple ways that managers can help maintain positive employee relations.

Open communication

In any relationship, communication is the key. Employees spend the majority of their days at work so it’s important that they feel comfortable with their manager and fulfilled in their tasks.

One way to ensure this is to ABC – Always Be Communicating. Let your team know that you are there to talk about their work or anything else they need, and be as transparent with them as possible about what you need from them.

One way to keep a constant pulse on how your team is feeling is to conduct simple weekly surveys that allow employees to submit anonymous feedback.

It’s a great way to keep communication flowing at all times, engage your employees and let them share their thoughts anonymously in a safe environment.

Show recognition

Simple gestures of thanks and kind words go a long way. Longer than you might think.

In fact…

77% of employees are starved for recognition


Appreciation and gratitude mean so much to your employees, and the truth is that reinforcing good work is what is inspires them to keep it up.

Giving public praise is another great way to show recognition while also inspiring the rest of the team. Rewarding your team properly is what cultivates a culture of appreciation between employee and manager, ultimately inspiring your employees to continue to work hard for you and the company.

Constant feedback

Offering frequent feedback to your employees on their great work and constructive criticism on where they can improve is essential in nurturing a positive relationship with your team.

Employees want feedback, they want to learn and grow and improve. Providing them with the tips and guidance they need to get there by holding frequent feedback sessions like monthly one-on-ones, will be highly appreciated.

Invest in your employees

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

John C. Maxwell

Show employees that you care about them as people, not just as 9-5 workers. Expressing that their fulfillment is important to you, on a professional and personal level, is a big statement that will elicit their respect and keep them engaged.

The truth is, if an employee is happy in their personal life, they’ll be much more productive at work, so investing in their lives at large and not just at work will be beneficial for everyone.

Four ways to show them you care

  • Offer them a gym membership so they can keep healthy and feel good.
  • Allow them to pursue side projects that are interesting to them.
  • Offer to support professional development initiatives.
  • Allow the option of paid time off to volunteer.

How to improve employee relations

There are many things that a manager can both do, and stop doing that will help improve employee relations.

1. Stop micromanaging

When a leader micromanages instead of trusting their team and giving their employees autonomy, the employee risks becoming disengaged. Subsequently, the quality of their work will suffer, which actually leads to more micromanagement, and creates sort of a vicious cycle.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between offering guidance, and micromanaging. Guidance and feedback are always great and keep employee relations positive, but watching their move at every step, hovering and offering too much unsolicited advice will actually begin to make employees doubt themselves and this will lead to a slew of other problems.

2. Don’t play favourites

It is generally obvious when an employer chooses favourites, and it can completely demoralize the rest of the team, ruining employee relations.

Treat everyone on your team with equal respect if you hope to earn the same respect back.

The other danger of playing favourites at work is that it creates tension between colleagues and this can lead to employee disengagement.

3. Be as clear as possible

Again, this ties back to good communication, but employees need to clearly understand their job roles, and what’s expected of them.

Then you can work with them to meet those expectations, but a lot of the time, this confusion leads to stress, which will lower their engagement.

4. Collect ideas from the team

You want to make employees feel like they are part of the team, and part of the decision making process.

Ask employees to submit their ideas, or at least make it known that their ideas are always welcome and that suggestions for new initiatives will always be considered.

But remember, don’t just collect ideas for the sake of collecting, this will have an even bigger negative effect. Instead of just listening to your employees’ ideas, try to implement some as well and put action to your intention.

5. Share the company vision

When Dan Pink talks about the motivators that drive us, one of them is purpose. Employees need to feel like what they’re doing is important.
They need to feel like they are part of something bigger than them. If you want to fuel your employees’ passion, share the long term vision of the company with them, and don’t be shy to communicate this frequently.

Free bonus: download our complete before, during, and after guide for the perfect 1-on-1!

How do you maintain positive employee relations?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!