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  • by Art Dykstra

From My Pad to Yours

Employee-to-Employee Relationships

The employees who actually carry out the work of organizations that serve people with disabilities—the treatment, habilitation and education—are often referred to as the “hourly employees.” (The term probably captures the extent of their organizational value, or perhaps the extent of their commitment, or in some cases, the measure of turnover rates.) No matter what they are called or how they are categorized, these people are key to fulfilling the mission and purpose of the service provider.

With that in mind, who an organization hires is the most important thing that it does. Recruiting people with compassion, energy and a sense of personal purpose clearly contributes to an outcome producing work environment. Likewise, hiring people with positive attitudes certainly makes more sense than trying to teach courses in positive thinking.

Essential to fostering a positive and optimistic culture is a focus on the nature of employee–to-employee relationships. Assuming that the organization strives to secure appropriate employees and uses the best techniques for employee selection, new employees should enter the organization with a clear understanding of the attitude, skills and performance levels expected.

However, the workplace environment must also encourage positive attitudes and behaviors. In this context, managers are the key players. They must model the kind of interactions and ways of being they expect of their team members. Role modeling can never be underestimated as a vehicle for “infecting” team members with supportive, relationship-enhancing actions.

Last week’s blog highlighted behaviors such as face-to-face communication, active listening, honesty and appreciation. Since these behaviors are also fundamental to productive employee-to-employee relationships, managers can encourage them through offering relationship-focused trainings, providing opportunities for employees to give each other positive feedback, creating contexts in which socializing can occur, and cultivating an environment that allows for differences of opinion and gives clear guidelines for dealing with conflict.

The obvious goal is for employees to be responsible for the own behavior and to treat each other as they want to be treated. Employees who believe that they are doing meaningful work, who are using their creative and cognitive skills, and who know that they are being treated fairly will do just that.