You, Me, and Our Relationship Makes Three

Business Relationships

A previous post introduced the characteristics of relationship building, which is the foundation to public relations education and practice, and (ideally!) organizational relationships. 

Without a clear focus on people and its human aspects, organizations are doomed to remain stagnant, or even die.

On Relationships

As a refresher, the components of relationship-building are this:

  • Control Mutuality (allowing another party the power to influence you)
  • Trust
  • Satisfaction
  • Commitment

These components contribute to an exchange relationship, one in which one party in the relationship does something for the other party as reciprocation for a past or future service; or a communal relationship, in which both parties provide benefits to each other out of concern rather than payback and seek no additional recompense.

This post will look more closely at the four initial characteristics, and the final post in this series will focus on the outcomes of an exchange or communal relationship.

Not surprisingly, control mutuality, trust, satisfaction, and commitment are all characteristics that we seek in our interpersonal relationships, whether it is between family members, spouses, partners, or friends.

But how often do we consider these components as criteria for our business-related activities?

For example, during an interview process the idea of commitment may be an issue of concern for the interviewer, and possibly the interviewee. But once we are established within an organization, how often do we stop to think about how all of these characteristics influence our relationships on an ongoing basis?

The 4 Key Characteristics of Relationship Building

The relevance and impact of these characteristics on organizational well-being can be better understood in the context of both enduring and distinctive workplace challenges:

Control Mutuality

Interactions with most organizations require some level of control mutuality. In a retail environment, or when attending a sales pitch we allow, or perhaps even encourage sales representatives to “wow” us with the benefits of their product or service. The control then shifts as we decide whether or not we were moved enough to commit or take our business elsewhere.

This back-and-forth exchange of control can be seen in any number of scenarios across industries – hiring new employees, starting a new product line or creating a stronger team, as examples  – and the way in which each party contributes, as well as the value they place on the outcome strongly influences their role in the relationship.

Trust

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been under close scrutiny for the past several months as a result of accusations of delayed medical treatment to veterans, allegedly resulting in several deaths. Unquestionably a tragedy, and regardless of the outcome resulting from hearings and policy changes, damage to the VA has and will continue to be significant.

Already then-Secretary Eric Shinseki, himself a veteran and former Army general, was pressured to resign, negatively affecting both his and the VA’s reputation. From the perspective of multiple stakeholders as well as the general public, the VA did not do what it said it would do for its members– the cornerstones of creating trust!

Regaining the trust of these key constituents will be slow and costly, not just financially, but in terms of re-establishing and maintaining the much needed support for a mission that has been called into question.

Satisfaction

Over the past 25-years, employees’ job satisfaction has fallen precipitously from 61% to 15%. Considering that even at its highest level more than one-third of the workforce was dissatisfied with their jobs, this statistic is even more staggering. Evidence of this dissatisfaction is seen not only in the various rankings of “worst companies”, but also in the fact that while the lists contain some overlap of identified companies, they also include many unique listings suggesting that there is a good deal of competition for this dubious title.

Unfortunately, due to external factors beyond employees’ control, such as the economy, unforeseen costs at home (including medical expenses, child care, routine expenses) or an inability to compete in the job market due to a lack of skills and the ability to develop them, employees often end up staying at a job that they would prefer to leave.

This could have a domino effect impacting the employee, colleagues and supervisors, the organization, customers, and family.

Commitment

Sticking with a relationship, personal or business, requires effort, and remaining committed to a relationship means that both parties feel the effort is worthwhile.

Turnover is one way to evaluate employees’ commitment to their jobs.

Although turnover in the United States has maintained at a steady rate of 3.1-3.2 percent, down from rates more consistent in the 3.7– 3.8 range before the current economic crisis, it would be naive to assume this decrease is due purely to job appreciation, particularly given such low overall levels of job satisfaction.

It is realistic to assume that some, perhaps even many, employees are reluctant to leave a steady job in questionable economic times. It is important for leaders to have a realistic perspective on employee’s long-term tenure and its contributing factors and not assume that longevity equals satisfaction and commitment to the organization.

Maintaining Excellence

Successful relationships require effort and maintenance. The relationship becomes its own entity and, like the individual parties involved, needs to be considered in terms of decision-making and outcomes.

So, instead of asking “How does this affect me?” or “How will this affect my client?” you must also ask “How with this affect our relationship?”

This awareness of the relationship as a “third-person”, so to speak, forces all parties involved to give it greater consideration, which adds to the depth and value of the connection.

With whom are your most important relationships? Have you been disappointed that certain relationships have not worked out? What level of effort do you put into developing and maintaining both types of relationships? How strongly to you consider the potential relationship when soliciting or accepting new clients? Has that made a difference?

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———————–
Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.

Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D is AMP Consulting
She provides Organizational Communication Consulting & Research Focused on
Relationship-Building and Presentation of Image
Email | LinkedIn |  Web

 

Image Sources: sapore.com.br

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3 responses to “You, Me, and Our Relationship Makes Three

  1. Great post Andrea! The relationship structure that you present is applicable in all organizations. Success is highly dependent on these relationships in that all concerned are committed in seeing success. However, this is not the case in most instances.

    With the lack of clarity, commitment and communication most relationships fail which directly effect the organization as a whole. Hence, the organizational culture needs to be one that is conducive to success and one that places value on the structure as you have noted here.

    Like

    • I’m in complete agreement, Brent. Organizational culture and leadership – with the latter setting the tone for the former – are so inextricably interwoven that they are central to all organizational outcomes. This is demonstrated again and again, both positively as seen in Wegmans, a regional (national?) supermarket that supports its communities by buying local produce and supports its employees through its respectful and “human” environment; as well as negatively, most consistently seen in the telecommunications industry, as is clearly demonstrated by the largest cable provider here in the Philadelphia area, which I will refrain from naming specifically (but their recent viral video on YouTube really brings this point home!).

      Thanks for your comment!

      Like

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