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How to Maintain Effective Working Relationships with Staff | SOP


how to maintain effective working relationships


'A team is as strong as its weakest link'. The strength of any team is in ensuring that all team members work in complete harmony, towards the same goal.  A consistent and constant effort is required from all team members to maintain effective working relations and create an atmosphere that encourages productivity.


Staff must treat each other politely and helpfully at all times.  If a positive interpersonal relationship exists between all staff members it will be noticed by customers and will ensure that a positive image reflects the outside world.

A well-knit staff will deal promptly with requests to create an efficient, effective work team.


Division of responsibilities and the sharing of the workload in a cooperative team will be that much more efficient and therefore contribute to greater productivity.


It is important to support others in the performance of their work since staff are dependant on one another and cannot perform well in isolation.


What are channels of communication?

The term ‘chain of command’ is often associated with and implies channels of communication.  The implication is that orders and information in an organization originate at the top, then proceed toward the bottom from one management level to another without skipping out any levels or crossing over into a different channel of communication.  The same procedure would be followed by information, requests, complaints, and suggestions originating at the bottom of the chain of command.


Since authority and responsibility are delegated through channels of communication it is very important to follow the procedures to ensure that all relevant personnel are informed.


It important that people in a chain of command are not left out.  This may often result in conflict since such a person would expect to be included in the channel of communication due to their position. 

Ignoring channels of communication can often result in people at a more junior level being singled out as a ‘scapegoat’ since management was not aware of decisions and actions carried out by such an individual.  Channels of communication are therefore a means of protection and accountability.


Practice being a proactive communicator.  Always ensure that you have not been ‘left out of the loop.  Do not be afraid to ask questions and follow up.  Asking intelligent questions is a sign of efficiency, not incompetence.


Improving Internal Communication

Most of the distortion, misunderstandings, and breakdowns occur in vertical communication (communication which moves up and down the hierarchical network).


The ever-increasing size of organizations has meant that the lines of communication have been further and further extended. It is common sense that the more communication “centers” a message has to pass through the greater the chance of distortion or breakdown. The experience in business has been that generally as the size of the organization increases, communication decreases, and morale declines.

Other than trying to improve the communicative ability of all employees, two things can be done to alleviate this situation.


Open channels for feedback should be established. Management should encourage the use of suggestion boxes and letters and the establishment of social and sporting clubs so that the social distances can be bridged.


Policies and procedures for communication should be laid down.


Top management should communicate directly to all staff using the public address system or public notice.


Principles of communication within organizations

Observing the following principles will improve internal communication:

  • Communication should normally follow the lines of authority.
  • Policies and procedures should control bypassing of the command structure.
  • The content of messages should be stored in a recoverable form.
  • Messages should be structured and restructured to meet audience requirements
  • An awareness of potential barriers to effective communication is a first step towards avoiding misunderstanding.
  • By building feedback into communication situations, members of organizations can help avoid communication breakdowns.


Communicating with your supervisor

Very often your immediate superior is your primary link in your organization/department’s channel of communication.  It is therefore very important that communication with this individual is effective.


Below see guidelines on communicating effectively with your superior. 


Receiving instructions

Effective listening skills are vital when receiving instructions. You must pay attention, be objective, not make judgments and think about what is being said in case you need to ask any questions. Receiving instructions is not a passive process; it is a two-way exchange.


It involves:

  • Listening: Paying attention and showing interest through body language, eye contact, and encouraging gestures such as a smile or a nod.
  • Questioning: Asking questions to ensure you understand what is being said and to clarify details.
  • Summarising: Put comments in your own words to make sure you understand and to help you remember what you are being asked to do.


Carrying out instructions

Act upon the instructions you have been given by your supervisor. Do not waste time before taking action; remember your supervisor will expect the task to be completed within the agreed time frame. If you are having problems completing the task, ask your supervisor for information or advice when you are unsure about matters within your area of responsibility.


When you have carried out the task, you may:

  • Be required to report back to your supervisor about the outcome of your work
  • Ask for feedback about your performance to help you evaluate your performance and improve your skills.


Reporting back

Regularly report your progress on activities to your supervisor. How often is regular? This will depend on what has been agreed to between you and your supervisor. You need to use your judgment because at times it may be necessary to communicate with your supervisor outside of the agreed times, for example:

  • If you encounter problems that prevent you from completing the required task.
  • If you have made an error, it is good practice, to be honest and present a strategy for correcting problems that may arise.

When you are reporting back to your supervisor show that you have initiative and are capable of making decisions within your scope of responsibility by:

  • Giving your supervisor an appropriate amount of detail without overloading them with unnecessary information
  • Taking responsibility for decisions rather than constantly seeking confirmation and approval from your supervisor.

You can keep your supervisor informed either orally or in writing. The method that you use will depend upon what has been agreed to or organizational procedures


Organizational Charts

An organization chart maps the hierarchical structure of an organization.


An organization chart allows personnel to see their role in the organization in context.  It can be valuable in demonstrating the support systems available to personnel as well as indicating the different channels of communication within the organization.  It will therefore serve to effectively highlight each individual’s correct channel of communication.


Dealing with other staff members

The success of any organization depends on teamwork.

The reputation of the company often depends on how the staff works together to ensure customer satisfaction.


Effective communication will ensure that any problems will be handled and accommodated efficiently with minimum disruption and wherever possible without the knowledge of the customers.


Staff morale is a very noticeable yardstick of an organization’s efficiency.  Staff must be motivated and cooperative to be efficient.  Each staff member relies on the cooperation and support of others to fulfill their role efficiently.


The following guidelines are to be kept in mind when dealing with other staff:

Consider all other members of staff as ‘internal customers.  This means that a service relationship exists between you.


For your colleagues to perform their jobs effectively, they need your assistance and vice versa. 

If you and your colleagues do not give one another the very best service no one will be able to perform their jobs effectively which will result in poor customer service.


Greet colleagues with warmth and friendliness.  Rather greet someone too often than not often enough.


Value others

Do not judge others, rather focus on listening and make sure you understand your fellow workers. Make sure you:

  • respectfully receive all questions (remain calm even if you are presented with a negative attitude)
  • Receive all questions (value each and everyone's input)
  • Respond to questions in a clear and cons clearly and conciselye flow of your presentation and decrease understanding of your message if you give lengthy answers).


Have a positive attitude and behaviour

How you conduct yourself at work and the attitude you display will affect how other team members respond to you. The attitudes and behavior to display include:

  • Smiling often
  • Maintaining eye contact when speaking to others
  • Asking open questions to extend the conversation, i.e. questions that require more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
  • Being friendly
  • Maintaining a positive attitude to your work and team members
  • Having a sense of duty and willingness to serve
  • Finding solutions, not problems.


Treat everybody equally

Every team member is an individual. They will be different from each other in several ways, for example, some may be argumentative or dominant, and others may be quiet. How you handle your interactions with each member of your team will determine your success as a team member.


Dealing with individual characters

The following guidelines should help you work effectively with some of the different types of characters, who may present you with problem behaviors.


Argumentative staff members

Team members may from time to time appear argumentative. When dealing with argumentative team members:

  • Control your own temper
  • Respond to the content of the member’s comments, not the attack
  • Try to find merit in their comment, express your agreement, and move on
  • Try to find out in a non-threatening way what is irritating the team member, in private at another time.


Dominant staff members

Dominant team members usually take over. They are often the first person to talk and rarely give other people a chance to express their opinion. 


When dealing with dominant team members:

  • Interrupt with statements like “That’s an interesting point, what do the rest of your think about that?”
  • Give other team members a chance to influence the discussion with statements like “Great point, what can you add to that Gail?”
  • Seek the team’s opinion of the comments by asking questions like “Does anyone else have a different opinion?” or “I can see your point, can anyone else think of another possibility?” or “Great idea, Victor given your experience with this matter can you add anything to what Chris has just raised?”


Quiet staff members

Quiet team members are team members who rarely contribute and often appear apart from the group.


When dealing with quiet team members:

  • Ask for, but do not force, the team member to give their opinion
  • Maintain eye contact with those who appear shy when you ask a question
  • Try to find out in a non-threatening way the reason why the team member is not contributing, in private at another time (i.e. do they feel that they have nothing to contribute?)
  • allow the team member to succeed (i.e. utilizing their knowledge, skills, and experiences).


Effective communication with staff

Below find tips on communicating properly with staff daily:

Tip #1 - Meet with your subordinates and colleagues on a daily basis.

Tip #2 - Use these daily meeting to discuss any concerns that the staff may have regarding their work.

Tip #3 - Discuss any potential problem areas, conflicts, obstacles, etc.

Tip #4 - Reinforce the idea that customer service is their primary responsibility and objective and that these objectives are most successfully achieved when working toward them as a team

Tip #5 - Disclose any new developments.

Tip #6 - Ask questions and encourage questions from staff to ensure that they understand their responsibilities.


Welcoming a new staff member

While it may be exciting to have new staff members join a team the reality is that they take a while to settle in.  This can hurt the effectiveness of the team.  For this reason, other members of staff must takeharing knowledge and experience. 


The following tips can be followed to ensure that new staff are effectively introduced into the work environment.

Tip #1 - Make sure the new staff member knows where the staff canteen, change rooms and toilets areas w, ell as any rules relating to visiting these facilities.

Tip #2 - Take every opportunity to mentor the new colleague in new tasks that are required from them.

Tip #3 - Share any information that you may have that will make you new colleague more efficient.

Tip #4 - Give assistance willingly if asked to do so.

Tip #5 - Be friendly and helpful at all times

Tip #6 - Allow the new colleague time to settle before making judgments.


Dealing with conflict situations


What is conflict?

Conflict occurs when there is a disagreement between one or more people with different ideas.  Although conflict most often occurs between people, we can also experience internal conflict when we have to make decisions and we don’t know which is the best choice to make.  


There are four main types of conflict:

  1. Intrapersonal - Conflict that occurs within an individual as a result of factors such as a conflict of interests.
  2. Interpersonal - Refers to conflict between individuals.
  3. Intragroup - Conflict that takes place within a group.
  4. Intergroup - Conflict that exists between groups.


Causes of Conflict

There are many causes of conflict but they can be broadly categorized into three groups.  Many conflict situations can involve a combination of two or even three of these groups. 


Conflicts over resources

These are normally the easiest to identify and resolve.  They occur when two people want the same thing and there is not enough to go around.  The resource is probably the first point of contention to be identified in a conflict situation and the heat of the dispute will most often be focussed there.  Although the use of the resource may represent the entire problem that is seldom the case. 


Conflicts over psychological needs

These refer to the fact that many individuals have many needs such as power, friendship, belonging, and accomplishment.  Clashes over these needs are commonly played out over material things.  The person, who appears to be upset about the use of a resource, for example, may also be upset about not having the authority or power to decide on who gets to use the resource.  Since these motivations are less obvious, disputes of this nature are harder to resolve.  If a person is unwilling or unable to express a need, the conflict is unlikely to be resolved.


Conflicts involving values

These are the most difficult to resolve since values are the basis of our belief system.  Challenges to our values are challenges to our very selves.  We tend to respond to them with the most deep-seated defensiveness and tenacity.  In conflicts that involve value differences, it is most difficult to abandon old patterns and choose to make new responses. 


Conflict Management Styles

There are different strategies for managing conflict and each individual has a personal conflict-handling style.  It is possible to change our conflict-handling styles by learning new and more effective ways of managing conflicts.  Responses to conflict situations depend on the individual’s goals and the importance of the relationship. 


The table below shows five basic strategies that could be used in conflict.

conflict management styles


Conflict management tools

To manage conflict effectively we need special tools.  These tools include good communication skills, using group problem solving processes, behaving assertively and working co-operatively together.


Consider the following tips in effective communication:

Tip #1 - Be clear on what you wish to communicate

Tip #2 - Explain completely and concisely

Tip #3 - Ensure that the other party understands you

Tip #4 - Work at understanding them

Tip #5 - Listen carefully to the other party, pay attention to their responses to your messages.

Tip #6 - Try not to get emotional

Tip #7 - Ensure that the receiver has heard your message as you intended and check that you heard what the other person was trying to say.


Appropriate assertiveness

None assertive behaviobehaviores not expressing your own feelings, needs, ideas and ignoring your t It is very unhealthy as it results in a steady build up of resentment.


Aggressive behavior is exactly the opposite and involves trying to dominate; even humiliating others and bullying them to your way of thinking.


Positive assertive behavior involves expressing your feelings, needs, and ideas and standing up for your rights in a way that does not violate the rights of others.


Solving group problems


  • Get all group members together, decide who else should or should not be present. 
  • Share all relevant information; try to separate facts from opinions.
  • Define the real problems in an orderly fashion and set objectives for your group.
  • Brainstorm as many different solutions to your problem as you can.
  • Agree on solutions for the problem identified and decide who should take the relevant/appropriate action.
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting to obtain feedback.  If the chosen solution is not working, adopt another.


The Outcomes of conflict

The following table summarises the possible outcomes of conflict. 



Both parties feel that they have lost out, animosity follows, and generally speaking, the conflict is not resolved.



One party is unassertive and allows the other party to win, despite the cost to themselves.



One party forces a solution on another leaving them feeling dejected and defeated



Both parties feel that they have won – this can be achieved through compromise and collaboration.


Conflict resolutions

The following guidelines are useful in dealing with conflict:

  1. Know your goals, wants, and needs
  2. Build on areas of common agreement
  3. Be assertive not aggressive
  4. Empathise with the other person’s views and feelings
  5. Be honest about making mistakes or feeling uncertain


Methods of conflict resolution

The following steps can be followed to complete the Collaborative Problem Solving Outline:

  1. Admit a conflict exists
  2. Confront the problem, don'tignoree it
  3. Brainstorm possible options
  4. Select the best possible option
  5. Put a plan in motion
  6. Get feedback and review


The following steps can be followed to complete the Three-Step Conflict Resolution Procedure:


Step #1

Complete a Conflict Analysis Map;

  • Define the issue in a short statement
  • Name the parties involved
  • List the needs and fears of each person


Step #2

Design solution options


Step# 3 

Negotiate with third-party negotiation mediation, if necessary.


Prioritizing work

What are your main time-wasters at work? How can you overcome them?


Efficient time management is essential for every supervisor to ensure that deadlines are met and team goals are achieved.


As a supervisor you not only have to manage your own time, you are responsible to manage others’ time. You are accountable for your team’s time. Supervisors have to ensure the productivity of staff by setting targets and monitoring and following up to check that tasks are on schedule according to the planned time frame.


Priorities and consistency of effort among your entire grlly count.


How to get control over your time

  • Make a daily TO DO list concerning goals (preferably at the same time every day)
  • Set priorities according to the ABC system
  • Beware of the time rut (inflexibility and doing only what’s scheduled)
  • See what can be delegated
  • Don’t fill up with low priorities
  • Spend time on A’s and not C’s


Below are 6 steps on how to beat the clock:


Step #1

Set objectives - Surveys done on successful people have shown that they have in common that they all have written goals. Write your goals down, keep them handy and remind yourself of them often. Also, list your long-term goals and goals for the next 6 months.


Step #2

Know how you spend your time – Complete a time log for a week


Step #3 

Set priorities - Use the 80/20 rule. This is called the Pareto Principle, named after an Italian economist-sociologist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It states that the significant items in a group normally constitute a relatively small portion of the total items in the group. i.e. in a group of items, 80% of the value comes from 20% of the items.


Set priorities- in terms of urgency and importance:

The ABC method:

A = high value

B = medium value

C = low value

The secret is to do the A’s first. Don’t do C’s at the expense of A’s and B’s.


How to differentiate between important and urgent activities (categories of time use):


Important and Urgent

These are tasks that must be done immediately or shortly.


Important but not urgent

These are things that can be done now or later. They are deferrable to a later date.


Urgent but not important

These are those things that clamor for immediate action, but that we would assign a low priority if we examined them objectively


Busy work

These are those activities that are marginally worth doing.


Wasted time

Anything you feel morally guilty of having done.


Step #4

Do one major thing at a time, i.e. concentrate your time effort, and resources.


Step #5

Schedule your work


Step #6

Delegate - Learn the art of delegation. It is very important. Your team members are there to assist you. 


Dealing with obstructions and interruptions

Below are ways to deal with time wasters:


How to handle interruptions

  1. You can’t eliminate interruption
  2. There are three main ways to help control interruptions:

    • Try to prevent interruptions that can be foreseen

    • Keep interruptions that are inevitable to a minimum.

    • Shorten interruptions that occur
  3. Set aside ‘available’ time when you are ‘in’ to take calls and consultations


Make meetings count

  1. Eliminate unnecessary meetings
  2. Use an agenda and stick to it
  3. Prepare for meetings
  4. Set a time limit
  5. Restrict the meeting to those whose participation is necessary
  6. Before closing, summarize


Control telephone calls

  1. Prepare your calls
  2. Keep the introduction to the point
  3. Give relevant information
  4. Listen carefully and take notes
  5. Terminate the conversation conclusively
  6. If necessary, indicate tactfully that the conversation is over


Set deadlines

  • Set deadlines for each task.
  • Impose deadlines for yourself as well as for your staff.
  • Stick to the deadlines and require your staff to do so as well.
  • Make sure the deadlines are reasonable.
  • Consult staff on time estimates before setting due dates.


How to organize your paperwork

  • Resist the temptation to stock pile papers.
  • Encourage the use of a uniform filing system throughout the office.
  • Handle each piece of paper only once.
  • After sorting: write comments and key ideas down, junk mail, and use the ABC system.
  • Read selectively.
  • Periodically weed outdated, unimportant and unused material from files.


Dealing with difficulties

Many factors contribute to inan individualaningindividualll areas of responsibility.  These factors can generally be divided into 2 categories; factors resulting from a lack of training and non-training issues.


In all cases, the staff member needs positive support to rcoovercomech difficulties and obstacles.


Below we highlight a range of difficulties that may affect a staff member meeting their responsibilities.  Possible strategies for overcoming such obstacles are also highlighted.


Inadequate training

Improve skills and knowledge by staff development and training.  This training can take many forms, including mentoring, attending courses and seminars retraining, at a technikon or university etc.  Such advice needs to be given by the staff member’s mentor or manager.


Inappropriate style or manner

Behaviour modification needs to take place.  An in-house expert should preferably monitor this. 


Lack of commitment

An improvement of relationships between members working with the individual in conjunction with goal setting and the establishment of incentives should take place.  This process must be carefully monitored by the department manager.


Underdeveloped personality

Personal skills training should be provided by a counselor.  Team building activities conducted by team members should be organized to encourage integration.


Unclear job description

The staff member needs to gain clarity from management.  All staff members should have a job description in writing.


Poor work methods

This is once again a retraining issue.  This training could take place in one of the manners discussed earlier:

Demonstration, mentoring, attending courses and seminars retraining, at a technikon or university, etc.  Such advice needs to be given by the staff member’s mentor or manager.


Work environment

Fears, insecurities, conflict, resentment, etc. in the workplace are best solved by a frank and open discussion between the parties concerned and a mediator, if necessary.



Maintaing effective working relationships has proven to imorove production and staff retention. It is upon every manager, supervisor, and staff member to ensure that the work environments conducive for teams to thrive. 


How do you maintain effective working relationships at your workplace? Please leave a comment.