Workplace Culture

Understanding Employee Relations

March 1, 2021

Learn what employee relations are and how to effectively maintain them.

employee relations cover 1

Employee relations are important to the proper functioning of a company. If the relationships between employees are strained, or management doesn’t see eye-to-eye with other staff, things can quickly go south. While it may seem arbitrary if employees get along with each other, it’s actually crucial for your business.

employee relations fighting

Many factors work together to create an overall relationship between a team and their employer. There are also warning signs that help identify which aspects of a company’s relations aren’t working. In this article, we’re going to discuss what these warning signs are, and how you can properly develop or improve employee relations within your company. Before we get started with how to improve employee relations, let’s first see what this term even means.

What Does it Mean?

Put simply, employee relations refers to the relationships that exist between employers and their employees. However, there’s a lot more involved than just the general relationships. It also refers to a company’s attempts to maintain these relationships and further develop them.

Understanding employee relations means a better understanding of how you too can create a great relationship between all employees and your company. Not only is the environment better when everyone gets along, but there are other benefits for businesses as well.

Benefits of Good Employee Relations

There are many benefits to employee relations, aside from the fact that it makes work more enjoyable! While you don’t have to be friends with your coworkers, it does make for a better overall environment or vibe that even clients will notice. Along with a more enjoyable, work experience, when people enjoy being at work, they’ll obviously stick around longer.

Aside from employee loyalty, maintaining employee relations will also keep your employees more engaged. As we know, employee engagement is crucial for productivity. This in turn results in better revenue and profits for the business. Overall, having a handle on your employee relations is greatly beneficial for business. So, how can you tell that your employee relationships need more work?

employee relations happy

Signs of Bad Employee Relations

It goes without saying that it’s fairly obvious to tell when your employee relations have gone awry. If it seems like your employees hate coming to work, that’s the first red flag. If it also seems like gossiping (especially about work, managers, etc.) is a constant issue, this is another sign. Of course, with many working remotely or coming in and out of the office, it might be harder to spot these red flags. So, managers and business owners need to keep their eyes and ears open.

There are also some other common behaviors that let you know your employee relations needs some work. For example, if employees consistently call out of work, especially last-minute or on a regular basis, start working on understanding your internal relationships immediately.

There are also some factors that will damage employee relations in a hurry. If any of these issues occur within an organization or business, it’ll be hard to get employee relations in check until these other issues are resolved.

Factors that create bad employee relations:

  1. Bad managers/management
  2. Lack of open communication and honesty
  3. No flexibility/understanding

Now let’s get to the part we’re all here for – how to improve your workplace so everyone is not only getting along but thriving together.

Managing Employee Relations

Now that we’ve addressed how employee relations can go awry and why it’s such an important piece of successful companies, let’s take a look at how you can manage your employee relations to ensure things are running as smoothly as possible. We’ll start with one of the most important things for most successful endeavors – communication.

employee relations communication


One of the major components of employee relations is maintaining communication. Communication is important in any relationship, and the same is true in the workplace. This is especially true now that so many employees are still spending some time (or all of their time) working from home. According to an Expert Market survey, 97% of employees believe that communication impacts their work daily.

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So, how do you encourage employees to feel comfortable communicating with bosses and their fellow employees? While it will take a while for employees to get used to a more “open” atmosphere, it starts with speaking more openly with everyone. After all, leading by example is always encouraging. If you’re open with employees and let them know it’s acceptable, they’ll start feeling more comfortable doing the same.

Here are some other ways to encourage good communication between your employees:

  • Ask for employee’s input (with an option to do so anonymously).
  • Be respectful to employees: give them the same respect they give you!
  • Stick to meetings you make with employees like you would with clients.
  • Give recognition when employees earn it.
  • Tackle any problems head-on instead of letting them simmer.

Now that we understand the role communication plays in workplace relationships, let’s jump into our next way to maintain them – teamwork.

Have a Dedicated Team

Usually, the task of employee relations falls under the responsibilities of the Human Resources department. However, there are many small businesses that don’t have an in-house HR department. In fact, according to an SHRM survey, a whopping 54% of employers handle employee matters themselves. While this might save money, it can be dangerous without the proper training. For this reason, other business owners choose to outsource their HR needs (like our HRNow option).

Employee relations teamwork

So, if you’re in a similar boat and don’t have your HR department in-house, you’ll have to make a team that specifically handles employee relations. Not only this, the team should be trained on how to handle these matters. There are right and wrong ways to handle conflict between employees.

Even if someone seems “naturally good” at resolving conflicts, make sure they know how to appropriately handle them in the workplace. The last thing you want is to make the situation worse, or worst-case scenario, do or say something illegal! Speaking of HR, this brings us to our next way to maintain employee relations – proper hiring.


In our article, The Top Eight Steps for The Hiring Process, we explain how looking for a good match should be at the front of your mind when searching for a new hire. This is because of employee relations! Keeping this in mind while recruiting and hiring is one of the easiest ways to manage and maintain your new hires.

employee relations interview

If someone doesn’t mesh well with your other employees, it’ll eventually cause larger problems. Sometimes, these larger problems are big enough that the above tips can’t even help pull it back together. So rather than getting into this pickle, ensure you’re thinking of employee relations before you even make a new hire.

Listening to how a potential new hire’s answers during the interview can give cues as to how they view and understand employee relations. You can spot a complainer or someone who sees the negative side by asking some personality-type questions.

  • Why did/do you want to leave your previous/current employer?
  • What did you like most about your previous/current position? What did you dislike the most?
  • Tell me a little bit about yourself.
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • How much importance do you put on communication?
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Starting with great hires that mesh well with a company’s culture will help maintain employee relations from day one. Now, let’s jump into our next tip – prioritizing mental health.

Make Mental Health a Priority

When mental health is a priority, you’ll be shocked at how it pays off for employee relations. We’ve all experienced (or almost experienced) the point of burnout, either in our professional or personal lives. This is exactly what you’re trying to avoid when you make mental health a priority for your team.

Here are some easy ways to help your employees maintain their mental health.

employee relations mental health
  • Take complaints seriously and look into them accordingly.
  • Add some plants to the office, or provide some to those working from home.
  • Make sure there’s enough natural light in the office (if this isn’t an option, there is artificial lighting that mimics natural lighting).
  • Have employees take periodic breaks – away from their desks!
  • Avoid too much stress and burnout.
  • Keep the workplace positive and promote positivity.
  • Recognize employees for a job well done
  • Don’t shy away from mental health, discuss it and keep it in the limelight!

Here are some other ways you can encourage employee’s mental health in the workplace from Now for our final and easiest step of maintaining employee relations – asking.

Ask Your Team What They Want

Sometimes, the easiest way to catch issues before they have a chance to snowball is simply to ask. While this falls in line somewhat with open communication, it’s often overlooked. Maybe because many employers fear employees will ask for the moon. After all, you give them an inch – right? Well, that’s not always the case. Just like unlimited PTO doesn’t backfire and results in fewer days off – simply asking employees what they want often works out for the best.

Go Forth and Build Your Relationships!

Now that you not only understand exactly what employee relations are but also how to effectively maintain relations, it’s time to put these steps into effect. Evaluate your workplace and see if any of the aforementioned warning signs appear within your team. If you haven’t yet made employee relations a priority, start with communication and work your way through the steps in this article. By the end, your company will have the employee relations of your dreams!

employer relations quote ending

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