4 Ways for Managers to Build Relationships

As a manager, developing constructive relationships with your employees is key. Experienced managers know this does not happen by itself; it must be done intentionally. This is easier said than done!  Building sound relationships as a manager can be fraught for many reasons.  Not everyone is a natural relationship builder. Less experienced managers can be unclear on setting good manager/employee boundaries.

Here are four strategies any manager can use to establish productive relationships with direct reports.

  • Be mindful – Notice people when you walk around the workplace. Pay attention to how they are doing. Don’t just ask, “How are you?” mean it! Take a few minutes to listen to his/her response and tone of voice. Does his/her response fit with what you are seeing? Being mindful in your exchanges conveys integrity and basic human interest, both of which are necessary for trust.
  • Ask follow-up questions – Follow-up questions indicate that you not only heard the response, but you are interested to know more. Even casual conversations like this increase the confidence of an employee to approach you with potentially challenging business issues.
  • Pursue their knowledge – Take an active interest in an employee’s perspective on an issue. Ask for their thoughts on topics. Explore their perspectives with questions like, “Tell me more,” or “Why do you say that?”  Not only are you likely to learn something, but you demonstrate that you value their input. In time, employees will know when to bring you key information…such as when a mistake has been made.
  • Resist the urge to talk – To do numbers 1, 2 and 3 well, you need to let the employee do most of the talking.  Stick to asking questions.  You may have lots to say about a particular subject, but if you take up all the airtime it won’t help build the relationship. In short, a manager will build better relationships by encouraging employees to contribute rather than by demonstrating his/her own expertise.


Remember that employees want to be seen, heard and understood. Developing a trusting relationship is a natural offshoot of good communication. Using these techniques will help you build core managerial skills. Remember, your Employee Assistance Program is here to assist as you improve these skills.  Give us a call, we’d be happy to help.