Manager's Tips and Tools

by Manager Development Services

Developing a “Relationship” with an Employee

Bonding is only the first step in developing a relationship with an employee.  To nurture this process, it is necessary for me to treat my employee in a way I would wish to be treated.  If I want this person to be open and honest with me, I must first be open and honest with them.  Remember, I want a healthy relationship and I must accept that the other person may be hesitant due to their particular history.  I must understand that this hesitancy does not have anything to do with me, but comes from this person’s own issues.

It is important that I don’t “force” a relationship to happen.  This only creates defensiveness and insecurity, and stifles openness and trust.  I must let them choose. I must invite them and make it easy for them to come. But I must let them come to me.  If I develop an understanding and compassion for all that this other person is and all they can be, then I “offer” my power to the relationship, making it easy for them to come to me.

Communication is the most important tool in any relationship.  Unfortunately, few people know how to communicate effectively.  There are basically five levels of communication. Few people rarely achieve a level where they are really sharing anything of themselves.  Since I want my relationships to be healthy, to grow and prosper, it behooves me to understand these levels and become adept at using them appropriately.

Most people will only become vulnerable and open themselves up to scrutiny if the other party is approving and reciprocates.  The normal progression in ascending the five levels starts when one person shares a little about themselves and then watches to see whether the other person will react or respond in kind.

If the other person reacts negatively (showing disapproval) then the progression stops or even reverses.  If on the other hand, the other person responds in kind, the progression continues with each person taking turns sharing a little more each time as they ascend through the levels.  But remember, if one reacts in a negative way during any time, the progression stops and at times will even reverse.

The Five Levels of Communication:

Level One (the lowest level):

Superficial Conversation – Non-communication

At this level there is no real communication of self.  I share nothing of my authenticity as a person.  This is the conversation of casual acquaintances (the club meeting, the neighbor, the Laundromat).  We talk in clichés, such as: “How are you?”  “How is your family?”  “Where have you been?”  We say things like, “I like your dress very much.” “I hope we can get together again real soon.” “It’s really good to see you.”

I am careful not to really share anything which is personal about me.  I am content to share pleasantries and so is everyone else.  If I should respond to, “How ya doing?” with a detailed account of my problems, it would be viewed as a breech of etiquette.  I remain safely in the isolation of my pretense, sham, and sophistication. It almost seems that everyone in this group has gathered to be lonely together.

Level Two:

Reporting about others – still nothing about me

At this level I still report nothing about my real self – what makes me me.  I expose nothing about me or what is going on in my life.  I’m still safe from outside scrutiny. I talk about other people or things, relaying only facts.  I give no opinions, no thoughts, ideas, or feelings – nothing which could be judged.

Level Three:

My Ideas and Opinions

On this level, I am willing to share a little of that which makes me, me.  I will guardedly offer my ideas and opinions about things.  But I will also carefully watch you to discern if you approve or not, and will retreat to safer ground if I detect your disapproval.

Level Four:

How I Feel – My “Gut Level” Emotions

Now, I am willing to risk that which most clearly differentiates and individuates me from others.  How I feel about things is what makes me, me.  And know this, I am taking a risk – I am exposed to your scrutiny here.  I am vulnerable at this point, and if attacked or disapproval is shown, I will retreat and probably never feel safe to return to this level with you.

Level Five:  Peak Communication

Complete Openness and Honesty

At this level, I am willing to open my world up to you and let you in.  I will be completely open and honest which means I am most vulnerable.  This is a precious gift which few people will ever experience. I open my world up to you and I will expect you to open your world up to me.  There are five rules of which I need to be aware if a relationship is to maintain this “Peak Level of Communication.”

Both parties must:

Rule 1:  Must never imply a judgment of the other.

Rule 2:  Emotions are not moral; they are neither good nor bad.

Rule 3:  Feelings (emotions) must be integrated with the intellect and will.

Rule 4:  Emotions must be reported.

Rule 5:  Emotions must be reported at the time they are being experienced.

If I know that most people will only become vulnerable and open themselves up to scrutiny if the other party is approving and reciprocates, I can “kick start” this process by being open and vulnerable myself.  If, when the other person opens up, I am approving and not judgmental, I make it easy for the other person to talk to me.  Even if I am not in agreement with what they are saying, I must make it “safe” for them to say it.

With healthy communication comes intimacy and with intimacy comes mutual respect, trust, and dignity.  This allows each of us to identify with the other no matter how different we may be.

I will often share with my “customer” the basic human rights describe in “Principle 5” of Chapter 9.  I speak to my “customer” not as a manager, not as a boss or a friend, but as a human being.

– excerpt from  “Inspiring Passion in Your Staff”


March 10, 2011 - Posted by | Counseling Techniques, Employee Coaching, Leadership Skills, Manager Development Tools, Mentoring | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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