Building Relationships in the Workplace: How to Balance Being Professional and Being Human

Two women building a relationship

Every HR leader needs to be an inclusive, caring, and supportive manager while also being professional. 

Key Points:

  • HR is too often viewed as the “police” of an organization; a function built for the sole purpose of hiring and firing.
  • To combat turnover and disengagement, HR leaders must connect with employees in a way that fosters a productive and healthy workplace culture.
  • Five tips to help HR leaders balance being human and being professional.

HR leaders act as guides, mentors, and coaches to their teams. In order to do this, and become a strategic HR leader, you need to develop a connection with employees – they should feel like you’re a part of their team. But there is an art to balancing being human and being professional in the workplace, and this is a skill every Human Resource leader must cultivate. 

The kind of relationship you have with employees impacts how long they’ll stick around. 

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report explains that “manager or management” is one of the 6 most common reasons employees cited for an early exit. Other studies show that over one-quarter of employees are prepared to quit a new job in the first 90 days if they aren’t pleased with leadership and culture. The same report revealed that 89% of newly-hired employees want to meet with their new manager on the first day and 83% expect to meet their coworkers then too. 

Employees want to develop positive relationships at work with HR (and their peers) from the first day. 

Too many employees fear the HR department. 

It used to be that the HR department was where employees went to be hired or fired. Fortunately, things have changed. Today’s HR leaders are responsible for strategic activities centered around empowering employees and building a healthy workplace culture. The modern HR professional ensures that employees feel valued and supported. 

However, a lot of employees still see the Human Resources department as the “police” of an organization. There are five generations in the workplace and many of those workers remember a time when there was a wall surrounding the HR department. 

The stigma of HR police persists despite our best attempts to tear it down. There’s no easy solution, no shortcut or hack that will open the minds (and hearts) of your employees, but there are a few things that, as an HR leader, you can do to build healthy relationships at work while still being professional. 

Five ways to balance being professional and being human in the workplace: 

  • Increase your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to eliminate the gap between HR and employees.
    Successful leaders bring their intellect and their emotions into the office. Emotional intelligence is the ultimate soft skill, encompassing everything from how we listen, communicate, and handle workplace conflict to how our teams collaborate and stay motivated. Harnessing your empathy and emotional control helps you earn the trust and loyalty of employees and is an excellent motivational tool.Emotionally intelligent leaders choose how they react to challenging situations and they understand how to assess and shape their employee’s emotions and reactions. In the workplace, where healthy relationships and positive communication are vital, it’s essential that you develop this skill and encourage your employees to do the same. 
  • Turn performance reviews into a driver of positive culture and employee empowerment.
    Performance reviews are a chance to engage, inspire and empower employees – but only if they are done well. Unfortunately, 44% of surveyed employees feel that their manager or supervisor was dishonest during an annual performance review and 45% of HR professionals do not think performance reviews paint an accurate picture of an employees work.Rather than abandoning the practice altogether (as some have suggested), you can turn performance assessments into a tool that empowers every person in your company.  To develop lasting and productive relationships with your employees, we recommend that you schedule frequent, informal check-ins, rather than the dreaded yearly performance appraisal.A modernized performance review program helps HR pros focus on inspiring positive outcomes and building healthy relationships. When HR leaders harness their skills specific to emotional intelligence and change the focus and timing of performance appraisals, they are better equipped to be a relatable leader and still maintain a professional demeanor.
  • Encourage open lines of communication between HR and the rest of the company.
    HR professionals must cultivate an open line of communication with their employees to build trust, boost morale, and promote healthy workplace relationships. Establish an open-door policy and encourage employees to come to you with questions and for problem solving and support.Try to gather feedback from your employees. Encourage them to ask questions and voice concerns especially when you’ve implemented a new program or project. Being professional not only means providing constructive feedback, it also means gathering input from every employee.
  • Understand when to relax and when to button things up.
    Competent HR professionals change their leadership style based on what’s required at the moment. If disciplinary action is necessary, a skilled HR leader understands that it’s not the time to crack a joke. This sounds obvious, but it’s more of a challenge than you might think. Our innate desire to connect often keeps us from adopting a professional tone when it’s most needed. It’s okay to be friendly, but when the situation calls for it, you also need to be tough.
  • Be authentic.
    It’s easy to slide into a different persona when you enter the workplace, especially as a leader. HR professionals who make a conscious effort to be authentic are more relatable and better equipped to tackle the challenge of creating a positive workplace culture. Being human, connecting with employees, and being a champion of workplace diversity – all of this can be achieved without sacrificing your professional demeanor.

Humans are naturally social creatures, which explains why healthy relationships at work leave us feeling happier and more productive. Don’t be afraid to let your guard down: you can be both authentic and professional at the same time.  

SentricHR has the tools to help you develop an outstanding workplace culture. Schedule a demo today to learn more. 


The Sentric Team

The Sentric Team

At Sentric, we help businesses make people management easier with industry-leading technology and standout support.

Sentric HR & Payroll Insights

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