How Many Relational Groups are Tugging at Your Employees?

by Rob Marchalonis

How Many Relational Groups are Tugging at Your Employees?

Competing Relational Interests.  It’s very likely your workforce is burdened with a dilemma.  The dilemma is “competing relational interests”, and it exists in virtually every organization.  Even in a small workplace with just a few employees, individuals have multiple professional and personal relationships with others.  Have you considered the challenge that this presents to your employees, and for you as an employer?

Your Employees are Relationally Challenged.   To start, a typical employee has unique relationships with their supervisor, their peers, and their subordinates.  External to your organization, employees may also have important relationships with customers, suppliers, vendors, partners, and others.  Depending on your size, there could be dozens of additional internal and external relationships with individuals, groups, and other stakeholders, each linked in some way to your organization.  Beyond all this, most employees must also navigate relationships at home with spouses, children, family members, and friends.  You can be certain that effectively managing multiple relationships IS a challenge for even your most “relational” employees!

Consider these relational groups:

  1. Family
  2. Organization
  3. Owners or Investors
  4. Supervisors
  5. Peers
  6. Subordinates
  7. Customers
  8. Suppliers
  9. Other Stakeholders

Pulled in Different Directions.  As individuals are “tugged” by various relational groups, their loyalties can become divided, distracted, and diluted.  For many employees, the most “at-risk relationship” is with your organization, their employer.  Too often, the organization drifts to the bottom of the relational priority list, overtaken by relationships that develop and grow with peers, customers, suppliers, and sometimes even with subordinates or supervisors. If these relationships result in a diminished focus on organizational outcomes, performance will certainly suffer. For the enterprise to prosper, the commitment and loyalty of each employee to the organization must be at or near the top of all their relationships! Accomplishing this isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort. Leaders, you must be aware of these relational dynamics as you work to establish and strengthen each employee’s connection and loyalty. One powerful solution is to create a cooperative environment and teamwork culture where every employee benefits most when the entire organization works together and succeeds.

To Whom or to What are Your Employees Most Loyal?  Right now, how committed are your employees to your organization? How does it compare to their commitment to their peers, customers, suppliers, supervisors, subordinates, families, and others? Are their loyalties equally divided, or heavily weighted to one or more groups?  What’s the level of teamwork? How often do your employees put WE ahead of ME? What are you doing to promote and encourage unselfish behavior? How dependent is your organization on your leaders or supervisors who work on the relational front lines with your employees?  Do you appropriately value and support the relationship between them?  Key question – how strong is the supervisor relationship with each employee and where does it stand relative to OTHER competing relational interests? If your supervisors are the “face of your organization”, do they represent you as you would like? Leadership training could be a very worthwhile investment for these supervisors. How many of your employees would say that their BEST (professional) relationship is between them and their supervisor?   How would you rate yourself in this regard?

Strengthen the Relationship with Your Organization by Sharing Your Success.   Few things unite and focus a team more than a common objective that, if achieved, will benefit everyone.  Smart incentive plans, directly linked to success measures for each workgroup, are a powerful way to unite employees and motivate them to perform at their best for the benefit of the organization, as well as their peers, families, and themselves.  Compensation or rewards that are proportional to team success can give individuals much greater reason to communicate, stay focused, work together, innovate, and overcome obstacles.  Competing relational interests decline when organization and workgroup objectives are clearly defined and linked to employee rewards and benefits.

Overcome the Relational Dilemma.  Give your employees reason to have their strongest relationship with your ORGANIZATION, by directly linking their compensation and rewards to its outcomes and success!

Rob Marchalonis is the founder of IncentShare and author of IncentShare: Motivate, Recruit, and Get Results with Incentives, now available at Amazon. Connect with him at