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Working relationship: Leverage this retention strategy and encourage collaboration


Poor collaboration is an impending crisis for many businesses, pushing 41% of employees to consider leaving their jobs.[1]

Employees believe their leadership is failing to promote workplace collaboration, with 78% thinking their leaders are not doing enough to support working relationships. As a result, 61% of workers blame this lack of cooperation for hindering overall business growth.

This data clearly indicates that if you want to retain your employees and keep them happy, you need to build strong working relationships. 

Good working relationships improve employee wellbeing, boost engagement, and contribute to your ability to use the latest talent retention trends to reduce turnover.

This guide explores different working relationship types, what healthy relationships look like, and how you can help your team build and maintain effective working relationships. 

We cover all the benefits of this employee retention strategy and also discuss how to use talent assessments to ensure good working relationships.

What is a working relationship?

A working relationship is the connection you form with coworkers, colleagues, and managers. It goes beyond just a bond, acting as a backbone of a thriving professional environment. Although working relationships may not be as close as personal relationships, they are vital for a happy and productive work environment.

So, what are the characteristics of a good working relationship?

A successful working relationship is based on several factors:

  • Trust: Ensuring colleagues and team members can rely on each other fosters an environment of collaboration and support

  • Respect: Acknowledging the value each employee brings to the table creates a culture where diverse perspectives are welcomed and celebrated

  • Self-awareness: Understanding one’s strengths, weaknesses, and working style facilitates effective collaboration and minimizes conflicts

  • Inclusion: Ensuring that every voice is heard creates a workplace where individuals feel valued and appreciated for their unique contributions

  • Communication: Fostering open, transparent, and consistent communication supports mutual understanding and goal alignment

What is a working relationship graphic

Different types of working relationships

Each employee, manager, or executive is an individual capable of forming different types of work relationships. 

Here are a few working relationship examples you can encounter and why they are important.

1. Coworkers: Coworkers form the foundational network in a workplace, fostering collaboration and shared objectives. The quality of these relationships directly impacts teamwork, innovation, and overall job satisfaction.

2. Team members: Team members unite with a common goal, leveraging diverse skills to achieve collective success. Effective teamwork fosters creativity, problem-solving, and the ability to overcome challenges, leading to higher productivity.

3. Mentor/mentee relationships: The mentor/mentee dynamic thrives on knowledge sharing, nurturing growth, and development. This relationship is vital for passing on experience, insights, and skills from seasoned professionals to those seeking guidance. It accelerates personal and professional development, providing valuable support and encouragement.

4. Work friend: Work friends offer emotional support, creating a positive and enjoyable workplace. These relationships contribute to a sense of belonging and camaraderie, reducing stress and improving job satisfaction. Your best friends at work often become a crucial support system during the daily grind, making the work environment more fulfilling.

5. Manager/direct reports: The manager/direct report relationship shapes the work environment, influencing productivity and job satisfaction. A positive relationship between managers and their direct reports fosters effective communication, professional growth, and a sense of motivation and purpose.

6. Work spouse: A work spouse is a trusted ally with whom you can share challenges and triumphs, creating a supportive work atmosphere. This relationship adds a layer of emotional support, understanding, and collaboration. Work spouses contribute to a positive employee work life balance, improving job satisfaction and employee wellbeing.

7. Life friend: Some working relationships evolve into lifelong friendships, transcending professional boundaries and adding more trust to the workplace. These enduring bonds contribute to a positive workplace culture, creating an environment where individuals feel valued and connected. 

Why are healthy working relationships important?

Fostering good working relationships emerged as an HR strategy for talent retention when organizations recognized that the company’s success was tightly linked to the relationship health of its members.

That’s because a workplace with healthy working relationships contributes to a positive atmosphere, fostering employee wellbeing and satisfaction. In contrast, poor work relationships can create a toxic work environment, which contributes to dissatisfaction, disengagement, and higher employee turnover rates.

Strong connections among employees encourage a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing. This amplifies the collective expertise and skills within the organization, helping support employee career growth and the company’s success.

Good working relationships also act as a natural deterrent to conflict, creating an inclusive workplace with open communication and mutual understanding.

Employees feel more satisfied and confident in their skills with the right relationship management at work. A supportive network of colleagues and managers reduces stress and anxiety, promoting employee wellbeing and enabling workers to thrive.

The benefits of good working relationships

Good working relationships go beyond being polite and smiling. These positive connections contribute significantly to organizational success and employee wellness

Here’s how fostering a good workplace with positive working relationships benefits your company.

1. Improves employee retention 

Good working relationships directly address the human aspect of employment. They create an environment where collaboration is not just a function but a cultural norm. Being part of a great team becomes a compelling reason to stay in that kind of workspace.

In fact, working with a great team is the primary reason for staying in their current job for 37% of employees, according to a survey done by Gusto.[2] 

Positive relationships within a team contribute to higher satisfaction, making employees more likely to thrive in their roles. In addition, having meaningful connections at work helps overcome difficult times without burning out.

The same survey discovers that working relationships significantly contribute to a positive workplace environment. That’s why 54% of employees report staying at their previous job longer than what was in their best interest – because of great coworkers, a strong sense of community, shared celebrations, and mutual goals.

The ability to collaborate is a significant factor in employees’ loyalty to an organization. Positive working relationships create a collaborative environment where employees feel valued and connected, helping reduce employee attrition rates.

2. Increases job satisfaction

No one wants to work in a toxic workplace where efforts are undervalued and undermined. Such environments breed resentment and contribute to burnout. Positive working relationships counteract toxicity by fostering an atmosphere of respect and appreciation.

A good workplace relationship is an important job satisfaction factor that affects employees’ commitment to their roles.

Interestingly, 99.1% of employees prefer a workplace where issues are discussed openly and truthfully. Still, less than half feel their organization aligns with open communication that supports good working relationships.[3]

According to a Deloitte report, 66% of employees state that working relationships with their colleagues affect their job satisfaction.[4] 

This shows the importance of teamwork and camaraderie, which brings us to the next benefit.

3. Improves teamwork

Cultivating positive working relationships improves teamwork, transforming individuals into a cohesive and high-performing collective.

Communication is at the heart of good working relationships. A communication breakdown is the root cause of team morale problems, according to 33% of human resources managers.[5] 

Improving communication ensures that information flows freely and everyone is on the same page. It reduces misunderstandings, encouraging everyone to address issues constructively instead of escalating conflicts. That leads to stronger team dynamics.

You can use talent assessments such as our Communication Skills test to assess the communication abilities of your team members and create employee coaching programs for people who can benefit from upgrading their skills.

4. Boosts employee engagement 

Working relationships are crucial for employee engagement, especially the relationship between an employee and their manager. That’s because a manager can account for up to 70% of employee engagement.[6]

Employee engagement should be a primary responsibility for managers. They must ensure employees understand their tasks, provide support when needed, and connect individual efforts to organizational success.

Managers can use face-to-face meetings and support employees to share upward feedback to improve the connection with their employees. Remember, there is a fine line between micromanaging and providing support and guidance, so you need to ensure you don’t cross it. 

About 64% of employees believe that poor work relationships cost them at least three hours in productivity every week, while 20% claim to lose six hours weekly.[1] 

In addition, the same number of employees think that improving working relationships can help improve creativity, innovation, and employee engagement.

7 best practices for leveraging working relationships to retain your top performers

A successful working relationship is based on respect, healthy dynamics, and open communication. 

Managing relationships at work can be challenging because they depend on many factors – but these seven tips help you discover how to improve and leverage working relationships to retain top performers.

Summary of the best ways to leverage working relationships



1. Hire empathetic team players

Cultivate empathy by using talent assessments to gauge candidates’ potential for meaningful work relationships

2. Encourage an inclusive company culture

Foster inclusivity through leadership commitment, diversity training, resource groups, employee feedback, inclusive language, recognition, and regular check-ins

3. Promote effective leadership communication

Establish a positive culture with leadership embodying empathy, adaptability, active listening, and clarity in expressing complex topics

4. Work to disarm and resolve workplace conflict

Address conflicts with mediation and conflict resolution training to prevent tensions from escalating

5. Help your employees handle difficult relationships

Support employees through one-on-one meetings, conflict resolution workshops, mediation, communication training, peer networks, and flexible working arrangements

6. Promote healthy office politics

Create constructive office politics with a clear code of conduct, discouraging gossip, emphasizing professionalism, and supporting communication and recognition

7. Encourage healthy boundaries

Help your employees establish clear boundaries to foster workplace trust and respect

1. Hire empathetic team players

As the demand for collaboration intensifies in the face of remote work, cross-functional teams, and global projects, it becomes crucial to hire candidates who bring not just skills but empathy to the table.

Empathetic team players create an atmosphere where positive working relationships thrive. Their ability to understand and resonate with the feelings and needs of others supports a workplace culture that values mutual support and camaraderie.

You can empathetic candidates using personality tests like the Big 5 to analyze applicants’ traits. This test investigates their openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability. That’s important because you can’t gauge these power skills just by looking at a resume or conducting an interview.

The results of these talent assessment tests provide invaluable insights into a candidate’s potential to form great work relationships.

2. Encourage an inclusive company culture

If you want to get the most out of your employees, you need to ensure that they feel valued, comfortable, and accepted. An inclusive culture establishes a workplace where team members feel a sense of belonging, contributing to their comfort and satisfaction.

Central to this culture is the promotion of open communication and psychological safety at work. This creates an environment where individuals feel free to express concerns, ask questions, share opinions, propose ideas, or admit mistakes without fear of ridicule or negative consequences. This type of environment stimulates good working relationships and teamwork.

Here are some practical tips on how to encourage an inclusive company culture:

  • Leadership commitment: Ensure leadership actively commits to and models inclusive behaviors, setting the tone for the entire organization

  • Diversity and inclusion training: Implement diversity training to promote awareness, understanding, and appreciation of diversity and inclusion

  • Feedback mechanisms: Create transparent upward feedback mechanisms that enable employees to voice concerns, suggestions, and experiences anonymously

  • Inclusive language: Promote the use of inclusive language and communication to ensure all employees feel seen and respected

  • Employee resource groups: Establish employee resource groups that celebrate diversity and provide a platform for shared experiences and perspectives

  • Recognition programs: Develop employee recognition programs that acknowledge and celebrate achievements and contributions

  • Regular check-ins: Conduct regular check-ins to assess employee experience and address any concerns promptly

  • Hiring the right people: Embrace inclusive hiring practices to attract diverse candidates with different backgrounds and experiences

3. Promote healthy, effective leadership communication

Leadership communication sets the tone for a good company culture where open and effective communication is the norm. This fosters a sense of connection and trust between leaders and their teams, helping align employee motivations with the company’s objectives.

In fact, 40% of employees say that their relationship with their manager contributes to their satisfaction.[4]

Leaders with certain skills carry a company forward and create a positive place to work, making this an excellent employee retention strategy. These skills include empathy, adaptability, active employee listening, and the ability to express complex topics in simple words.

Effective communication helps employees understand the meaning and significance of their work, contributing to a sense of purpose and engagement. Moreover, it sends a powerful message that leaders value and appreciate their workforce. 

Regular communication dispels the notion that leaders are too busy or detached to engage with their teams. As a result, their employees feel seen, heard, and appreciated, which improves job satisfaction.

4. Work to disarm and resolve workplace conflict

Workplace conflict can significantly affect work relationships and employee retention rates. That’s why it is important to recognize the common culprits so that you can effectively disarm and resolve issues in the workplace.

Workplace conflict often stems from power struggles, whether real or perceived. Unequal distribution of authority or influence can create tension within a team.

In addition, conflict can arise because of communication breakdowns. Misunderstandings, lack of clarity, and poor communication channels contribute to misinterpreted messages and crucial information not being conveyed.

Different values, beliefs, and perspectives among team members can lead to clashes, especially when not addressed and managed proactively. Another problem is the lack of clear managerial guidelines that lead to a competitive work environment where individuals battle for recognition, promotions, or resources.

Pretending that workplace conflict doesn’t exist or hoping it resolves by itself often makes the problem worse, causing tensions to rise and potentially escalate to voluntary turnover.

Instead, you should proactively provide employees with mediation and conflict resolution training that equips them with the skills to address conflicts constructively. Mediation provides a neutral platform for disputing parties to express concerns, understand perspectives, and collaboratively find resolutions.

5. Help your employees handle difficult relationships

Difficult relationships with coworkers, clients, or managers significantly affect job satisfaction and performance. A strained working relationship induces stress and anxiety, potentially leading to disengagement and burnout. 

If you’re wondering how to mend a work relationship, you need to provide proper support and tools to enable employees to handle these difficult situations.

You can use one on one meetings to ask your employees about working relationships. Actively listening to employee experiences and concerns helps you understand and support potential challenges. This opens avenues for quick support and intervention.

Here’s how you can support employees who are facing a difficult relationship:

  • Organize conflict resolution workshops: Equip employees with tools and techniques to address conflicts constructively, supporting a more collaborative and communicative environment

  • Use mediation services: Offer mediation services where a neutral third party helps facilitate communication and understanding between conflicting parties

  • Provide communication training: Organize workshops on active listening, assertiveness, and clear expression, enabling employees to navigate conversations with difficult colleagues more smoothly

  • Establish a peer support network: Create a supportive system where everyone has colleagues to lean on for advice, making difficult relationships easier

  • Offer flexible work arrangements: Give your employees more control over their work hours or location – flexibility in the workplace can alleviate some stress and help them better manage interpersonal difficulties

6. Promote healthy office politics

Office politics play a significant role in shaping professional relationships within an organization. How individuals navigate and engage in office politics impacts collaboration, trust, and workplace culture. 

Unhealthy office politics can create team factions and divisions, eroding trust and preventing effective communication. Promoting healthy office politics encourages collaboration, respect, and a shared commitment to organizational goals.

To nurture healthy working relationships, you need to create an environment where office politics are constructive rather than divisive.

Here’s how you can do that:

  • Establish a clear code of conduct

  • Encourage people to avoid gossip

  • Emphasize the importance of maintaining professionalism in the workplace

  • Support open communication

  • Create recognition programs

  • Encourage leaders to set examples

  • Provide employee training programs on conflict resolution

7. Encourage healthy boundaries

Setting boundaries at work is crucial for developing good relationships and retaining employees. It helps people relax and build trust with each other. When individuals feel secure in their space, it creates an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect, laying the foundation for positive collaborations.

Here are some examples of working relationships that cross healthy boundaries:

  • Invading personal space, both physical and emotional

  • Neglecting personal life commitments and consistently working beyond reasonable hours

  • Failing to communicate personal limits and expectations

Let’s explore the importance of setting healthy boundaries at work by seeing how two employees, Lisa and Sarah, handle a similar situation.

Lisa recognizes her workload limits and communicates to her manager that she can’t take on extra tasks. Appreciating the honesty, the manager delegates elsewhere. Lisa excels in current assignments, earning praise. 

The positive outcome reinforces the importance of clear communication, establishing a foundation for mutual understanding.

On the other hand, Sarah is eager to prove dedication, so she takes on extra tasks without expressing workload limits. All the extra work causes burnout and affects her work quality. The absence of communication leads to resentment, straining the relationship with the manager. 

Eventually, the situation negatively impacts Sarah’s job satisfaction and the future with the company.

3 examples of companies succeeding with working relationships as a talent retention strategy

Let’s explore success stories of companies that have used strong work relationships to improve employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention. 

Summary of companies that emphasize strong work relationships


How it fosters working relationships

Compass Group

Using coaching and feedback helped the company cultivate a relationship-first culture, leading to a 21% improvement in engagement


Launching the Coaching Circles program created more connected leaders, improving working relationships and psychological safety at work

Take-Two Interactive Solutions

Implementing a targeted initiative to improve employee wellbeing and support team bonding has helped the company achieve a 51% higher retention rate than the average

Compass Group

Compass Group, a global food service and support service provider, is one of the world’s largest employers. The organization places a high emphasis on community values and building relationships.

Recognizing the need to strengthen its community-oriented values, the company wanted to instill a culture of employee coaching and feedback within its leadership. It launched a coaching program for senior leaders, then expanded to mid-level managers after successful results.

The company experienced:

The positive outcomes have helped the company build stronger leaders and cultivate a relationship-first culture. The organization continues to foster connections through coaching, improving employee satisfaction and retention.


Chevron is an American energy corporation with a long history of data-driven innovation. When faced with the pandemic, the company wanted to find a way to support its employees.

It started the Coaching Circles program in 2020, bringing team leads together for group learning sessions guided by certified coaches. These sessions focused on connection, shared learning, and practical application of skills. 

The results showed:

  • 14% increase in psychological safety

  • 20% improvement in coaching capabilities

  • 11% boost in emotional resilience

The company saw a significant increase in employee recognition, which supported a culture of positivity. Coaching sessions helped create more connected, self-aware leaders who celebrate employee accomplishments. 

Take-Two Interactive Solutions

Renowned as a developer and publisher of interactive games, Take-Two Interactive Software is the creative force behind labels such as 2K and Rockstar Games. Beyond crafting engaging experiences for its audience, the company prioritizes empowering its employees and fostering strong employer-employee relations through innovative wellbeing initiatives.

The organization introduced the “Energizer Series,” a branded initiative designed to provide employees with tools to manage workplace stress effectively, prioritize employee wellness, and support team bonding.

This initiative goes beyond traditional approaches, encouraging team members to participate in activities like yoga, Zumba, and “ice cream socials.” These activities contribute to team building and fostering connections. As a result, the company has a 51% higher employee retention rate than average. In addition, 87% of employees think it’s a great place to work.

Nurture talent by supporting working relationships

A good working relationship is vital for talent retention. Supporting these connections positively impacts your employees' engagement, teamwork, wellbeing, and satisfaction.

You can leverage working relationships by encouraging an inclusive culture, improving leadership communication, addressing conflict, promoting food office politics, and encouraging healthy boundaries.

You can also use personality tests to hire more empathetic people who can become great team players.

To learn even more about how you can support employee relationships, check out our article about the importance of trust in the workplace


  1. “State of Collaboration Survey”. (2022). Corel. Retrieved December 13, 2023. https://www.alludo.com/static/all/pdfs/newsroom/data-insights/virtual-collaboration-tools-report/2022-state-of-collaboration-survey-report.pdf 

  2. Eisenberg, Amanda. (September 13, 2016). “Coworkers, benefits matter most to employees”. Benefitnews. Retrieved December 13, 2023. https://www.benefitnews.com/news/coworkers-benefits-matter-most-to-employees

  3. “86 percent of employees cite lack of collaboration for workplace failures”. (May 4, 2011). Fierce. Retrieved December 13, 2023. https://www.fierceinc.com/employees-cite-lack-of-collaboration-for-workplace-failures/

  4. “Digital collaboration: Delivering innovation, productivity and happiness”. (June 2013). Deloitte. Retrieved December 13, 2023. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/se/Documents/technology-media-telecommunications/deloitte-digital-collaboration.pdf

  5. “Survey: Human Resources Managers Cite Lack of Communication as Main Source of Low Employee Morale”. (October 22, 2013). PRNewswire. Retrieved December 13, 2023. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/survey-human-resources-managers-cite-lack-of-communication-as-main-source-of-low-employee-morale-228753931.html

  6. Harter, Jim; Beck, Randall. “State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders”. Gallup. Retrieved December 13, 2023. https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/182792/managers-account-variance-employee-engagement.aspx


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