What's The Best Way To Manage Employee Relations?

Managing a team is a double challenge. You manage people and you manage objectives. The distinction between the two exists only in theory. You’re never able to completely separate the two.

Working with people is messy business. Personality traits, emotions, abilities, behavior, actions, you can’t separate them and come up with an algorithm into managing relations. However, a bit of structure always helps.

Employee relations are a key element of workplace happiness and employee engagement. People thrive when they have a social support system and that goes for their working environment too.

Types of employee relations

Vertical relationships

We’re talking about employer-employee relations, or better yet manager-team member relations. They’re often classified as a sensitive topic because, sometimes, human nature contradicts clearly established HR rules.

As a manager, you want to know where you stand with your team and you’re open to receiving feedback.  But, sometimes, having a team member disagree with an action you took might put a knot in your neck/keyboard. It’s human nature to have all these emotions interfere with our rational interaction rules.

What you need to keep in mind is that you’ll always feel a certain way. That’s how relationships work. You don’t need to block your feelings so that you come off as the perfect manager. There’s no such thing as a perfect manager. You need to act and come off as an involved manager, who does his very best and trusts his team.

Some key points:

  • Get to know your team, on an individual level
  • Keep communication channels always open
  • Ask for their opinion
  • Listen to their arguments
  • Encourage them to stand their ground
  • Build these relations on common rules and values
  • Don’t keep your distance, be part of the team

If you’re interested to find out the secret to becoming a more likable leader, Jack Zenger gives you 7 Ways To Improve Employee/Boss Relationships.

Horizontal relationships

It may not seem like this is within a manager’s responsibilities, but fostering work relations depends on management as well. Employee interactions in the office are strongly influenced by the workplace atmosphere, company values and management actions. Having good relationships with coworkers is one of the top 3 happiness drivers.

Here’s how you can help them thrive:

  • Build a company culture of trust and honesty
  • Encourage social interactions
  • Don’t be an office tyrant
  • Create opportunities for people to connect
  • Work in dynamic teams
  • Have at least one team communication channel
  • Encourage them to give and receive feedback

Expectations setting

You should always hold an expectations setting meeting, as part of your onboarding process. You’ll want to talk to your soon-to-be team member and set some ground rules that will make your relationship a lot more clear and easy to manage.

For example, how strict is the working environment, what’s your policy on erring? You both need to get on to a right start by openly discussing the basis of your future relationship.

Legal Compliance and Employee Rights

Navigating the complexities of employment law is a critical aspect of managing employee relations effectively. Ensuring legal compliance not only protects the organization from potential litigation but also safeguards employee rights, fostering a culture of fairness and respect. Regular training sessions on employment laws, clear communication of employee rights, and transparent procedures for addressing grievances are essential. By embedding legal compliance into the core of employee relations strategies, organizations can create a stable and respectful working environment that values and upholds the rights of every individual.

Way of working

Your team’s way of working should be commonly established. Based on your personal and team values, your objectives and your responsibilities, you need to define your way of working.

Who does What, When and How does he/she transmit that to the rest of the team? Seems logical but you’d be surprised how many teams operate at the mercy of hazard. Not only is that not productive, but it damages employee relations.

When you’re not in sync with your team, mistakes and delays can lead to arguments, resentment and lack of communication.

Enhancing Employee Relations Through Health and Safety Initiatives

In today’s dynamic work environment, prioritizing the health and safety of employees is paramount in fostering a positive workplace culture. Implementing comprehensive health and safety measures not only ensures compliance with legal standards but also demonstrates a genuine commitment to the well-being of the workforce. By regularly reviewing and updating safety protocols, conducting training sessions, and encouraging open dialogue about health concerns, organizations can significantly improve employee relations. This proactive approach not only mitigates risks but also builds trust, showing employees they are valued beyond their immediate output.


Apart from challenging situations, you may find yourself in a bind due to some challenging types of individuals. Let’s see how you can best handle them.

The Misfit

Some people have a natural tendency to keep to themselves. It’s just the way they’re built. To their team, they might appear to be absent, disinterested or even antisocial.

Your job is to make sure that such a person has everything they need in terms of information, support and preparation to help them be part of that team. They’re there for a reason. Try to get them as comfortable as possible a being part of the team.

Don’t put too much pressure on them. Observe the situations where they seem to be more open and capitalize on them.

The Joker

The person who takes fun to a whole new level, sometimes even too far. If someone is more interested in having fun at the office than working and they’re disturbing everyone else’s work flow as well, you might have a problem.

Try talking to that person and giving them some honest, constructive feedback. You don’t have to kill all the fun, but you do need to keep a balance. A fun atmosphere is great just as long as it encourages happiness and productivity, not frustration and chaos.


Office romance is never dead. Your office policy is your own on that subject.

As long as communication, honesty and respect are at the base of your employee relations, you should be able to enforce that policy.

“At the end of the day, you can’t control office relationships. They’re going to happen, regardless of what may be in the employee handbook,” Jenna Jordan, vice president of payroll and HR services at Strovis Payroll. Here are some “Dos” and “Don’ts” of the Office Romance.

Other challenges

We called them challenges, but here’s an author who didn’t sugar-coat it – Twenty Dumb Things Organizations Do to Mess Up Their Relationship With People.

The Role of Technology in Employee Relations

Leveraging technology can significantly enhance the management of employee relations by streamlining communication, facilitating feedback, and offering platforms for recognition and engagement. Implementing an intuitive Human Resources Management System (HRMS) enables efficient handling of grievances, absenteeism, and performance management. Moreover, digital platforms can foster a culture of recognition by allowing peers and managers to acknowledge contributions in real-time, enhancing morale and engagement. By embracing technology, organizations can not only optimize operational efficiency but also create a more connected and transparent workplace culture.


Don’t neglect the relational aspect of a working environment. People need a social structure to function and their well-being as well as their productivity depend on that structure.

Encourage strong and honest employee relations, in order to build a long-term engaging company culture.

Get started with this quick exercise: Have everyone in your team answer these 25 Revealing Questions That Build Better Work Relationships (by Shelley Prevost).

Image via StockSnap.io under C.C.0 license