7 Toxic Factors That Damage Employee Relations

A shocking 48% of employees report experiencing abuse in the workplace. Additionally, Human Resource managers spend 24% of their time resolving employee relations disputes. Why are employee relations issues so prevalent and how can they be improved?

If you are a Human Resource (HR) manager or business owner, you know that maintaining good employee relations is critical to your company’s success. However, you may also know from experience that several issues can arise in the workplace and snowball into significant problems.

Every business owner wants to keep a safe and secure workplace with a supportive culture that fosters communication and collaboration.

The ultimate goal is to cultivate stronger and healthier employee relations and a happy workplace that runs efficiently and effectively.

What are employee relations?

Employee relations refers to the ability of employees to interact in a healthy manner with others and build strong relationships.

From the perspective of managers in a company, it involves the process of creating systems and communication channels to enable group employee relationships as well as strong one-on-one relationships.

Employee relations refers to the relations between people and how they interact and engage with each other, especially in a professional environment.

It’s no secret that in order for a business to operate successfully, their employees must be efficient and productive with their time.

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Companies that invest in employee retention and engagement plans are most likely to keep their workers productive, loyal, and content at work.

In fact, a study by Harvard Business Review (HBR) found that 71% of the respondents agreed that employee engagement (EE) is crucial to an organisation’s overall success.

Twitter is one example of a company that stands as a leader in workplace culture and excels at employee relations. Twitter strives to give every employee a voice and works hard at cultivating an environment of inclusion and transparency.

Leading industry professionals determine that workplace bullying, lack of honesty, lack of flexibility, bad managers, unclear policies, pay raise requests, and workplace conflicts are the most significant toxic factors that damage employee relations.

Still, many organisations fail to show how their most valuable asset – their employees’ contributions, are essential.

Here is a breakdown of seven toxic factors that damage employee relationships, along with the repercussions they might have and the strategies you can implement to fix them.

Bad bosses

In the 2015 Gallup State of the American Manager report, 50% of respondents stated they resigned from a job at some point in their lives to get away from their boss.

A firm that merely neglects to train company managers properly in balancing people and tasks is indeed paving the way for company failure.

If somebody is very task-oriented but without the right people management skills, they can quickly stir up a toxic relationship with the entire team and drive the employee turnover rate up.

Excellent employee relationships are a product of actively engaged employees. According to the Employee Engagement Network founder, David Zinger, engagement is a verb even though it sounds like a noun. Engagement is about working on the three main ABC principles of work:

  • A for achieving results
  • B for building relationships
  • C for cultivating employee well-being

If managers fail to follow these three basic principles, it will cause damaged employee relations.

Effective strategies

To avoid damaged employee relations, you must evaluate bad managers early. State down all the values the organisation wants its leaders to reflect.

Then, permit your employees to administer recognitions to managers who follow this statement of leadership values. This way, everybody will feel valued that their contributions matter.

Declined pay raise

Unequal pay and low wages are the most common factors that damage employee relationships. As a boss, you will likely have to deal with constant pay raise requests from your workers.

Disregarding or rejecting them is not a good option. It can result in disengagement and high turnover rates in the workplace.

Under 19% of American workers are content with their wages, and more than half switch to another job to get a pay raise. Even if you offer your employees fair pay, they’ll still ask you for a raise at some time.

As a manager, you must take time to ponder over your request instead of declining it straight away. Take your employee’s results and performance into consideration, along with the competition and average industry rates you are facing.

Effective strategies

As a manager, you should keep a performance monitoring system in place. It enables you to assess the performance of your employees regularly and reward them for their achievements.

Set a goal for yourself to perform a performance review of your employees on a regular basis. This way, your employees will feel like their work is valued and that they are responsible for their future in your organisation.

If you’re on a tight budget, you must offer other perquisites like flexible working hours, employee recognition, or a title promotion.

Ways to avoid damaging employee relations

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Lack of flexibility

Workers genuinely appreciate working in a company with a flexible schedule that adapts well to their busy lives. If a company aims to grow and encourage long-term employees, it must realise that work cannot always be a number one priority.

The president of HRU Technical Resources, Tim Sackett, believes many organisations are still stuck in the 1980s edition of performance management, which directly affects their ability to provide flexibility to workers in when and how they do their jobs.

However, in reality, employees prefer to have schedule flexibility. There is no way you can offer this if you manage your employees’ performance by counting every minute they are not being productive.

The rapidly changing world continues to add significant pressure for change in the work environment and contributes to human relations. It is mainly because of technological advancements which have made it accessible for us to work from anywhere.

With this kind of technology, employees expect to acquire access to resources and information almost instantly. Employees now know that they can modify and enhance things as long as leadership is willing. They no longer will accept the way they have always been doing things.

Effective strategies

As a business owner, you should set objectives for maintaining a proper work-life balance by motivating employees to develop an action plan for their personal and professional goals.

If you do not offer flexible working hours, have your workers think of ways of overcoming the obstacles in their way to reach their goals. One way to do it is to have your employees write down things they have been thinking of doing or previously did not have time to do.

Make them divide that piece of paper into three columns and in the first column, list all the things that can go wrong.

The second column should list the solutions or something they can do to solve the problems.

In the last column, make them identify what they must do to go back to where they began should there be insurmountable obstacles.

Unclear policies

Some employee relations concerns are almost inevitable. Most companies do not tend to have the right policies in the workplace. These might include leave policies, code of conduct, harassment, discrimination and bullying policies, privacy policies, alcohol and drug policies, and email policies.

Effective strategies

As a manager or a business owner, you must make it evident to your workers how you conduct the performance reviews, what you consider unacceptable behaviour, and what constitutes bullying and harassment.

Besides, it would help if you established standard guidelines and procedures for offering pay raises and bonuses. Be open to feedback and keep an open and informal line of communication with your employees to prevent damaged employee relations.

Lastly, it is essential to treat everybody the same way and let your workers know how much you appreciate their efforts and hard work.

Workplace bullying

Workplace bullying is another prevalent employee relations issue. Women are especially vulnerable to bullying. However, 25% of workers tend to do nothing about this, while only 12% take the necessary steps to fix this issue.

Every year, this common employee relations issue costs employers roughly $200 billion in lost employee productivity.

If this problem remains unaddressed, it can significantly influence individual employee performance and team morale, increase absenteeism and tarnish the firm’s reputation.

Effective strategies

Keep a vigilant eye on your workers and lookout for signs of workplace bullying. A few examples of bullying are teasing and mocking, name-calling, and a stressful and toxic environment.

With the help of questionnaires and surveys, you can help create a safer and better working environment for your workers and identify the potential issues before it becomes disastrous.

Unresolved conflicts

Cultural differences, unfair treatment, poor communication, and misunderstandings may build up tension in the workplace. With time, these issues can snowball and result in conflicts, affecting employees’ overall productivity and motivation.

Business owners should acknowledge that each employee has a distinct personality and needs. So, it is impossible to please everybody no matter how hard you try. Suppose you decide to invest in new computers for the IT department.

It might look like a wise investment since modern technology enhances business security, streamlines work processes, and frees up workers’ time.

Still, some other departments will not agree with your decision to invest in computers. It ultimately indicates that they should increase their wages, buy ergonomic desks, or invest in new software.

Situations like these result in conflicts. While some employees might be content with your decision, it might be a waste of money for others.

Effective strategies

As a business owner, it’s important that you listen to both sides. Address your employees’ concerns, encourage them to give their feedback, and make them see how this particular investment will benefit their organisation and enhance their work in the end.

Give your staff a channel to anonymously voice their concerns and offer constructive suggestions to improve the working dynamics. It will minimise misunderstandings and gossip, allow workers to trust each other and discuss what is troubling them without hesitation.

Lack of honesty

One of the root causes of a toxic and frustrating employee-employer relationship is a lack of honesty. According to a 2015 Wrike study, unclear leadership and gaps in information are the top stressors at work.

Workers need to convey their concerns and needs and open up to employees. They need to establish their sense of self-confidence to be able to have an open discussion with the company.

Indeed, honesty is the best policy, but you must endorse it in a safe working environment. Most firms do not carry the objective of encouraging honest feedback from their staff. If there is one thing employees need to be serious about, it is to focus on the company’s core values.

Effective strategies

Give your workers a safe place to share their stories about honesty and integrity. Keep a vigilant eye on the instances where leadership and employees have been trusted with something and how they surpassed those expectations.

This strategy will help you foster accountability and know when values are put into action while not overpromising and set employees up for discontent. You will see trust eventually improving as long as everybody keeps hold of themselves and their co-workers responsible at work.

Do not let poor performance management strategies or bad leadership destroy and dominate the good contributions and human relations.

Good employee-employer relationships can be significantly attributed to integrity and honesty in all aspects of the workplace. As a result, this requires listening to the concerns of both sides and valuing a job well done.

In Summary

Employee relations refers to how people interact and engage with each other in a professional work environment. Cultivating and maintaining good employee relations is paramount to having success in any business.

However, this is often a challenge since 59% of organisations don’t track employee relation issues. This neglect has led to many workers to leave their jobs to seek a healthier and happier workplace.

In this article we reviewed the following seven toxic factors that damage employee relations: bad bosses, declined pay raise, lack of flexibility, unclear policies, workplace bullying, unresolved conflicts, and lack of honesty.

By recognising the factors that can lead to an unhealthy work environment and poor employee relations, you can start to implement procedures and policies that foster a happier, healthier, and more productive work environment.


About the Author

Luke Parker is the founder of LukeParker.com where he writes about entrepreneurship, marketing, and leadership. Luke is passionate about helping entrepreneurs, hiking, golf, family, and networking.

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