As an organizational communication professional, my goal is to help organizations do what they do, better. And I am very passionate about it!
My earnest belief is that whether in a corporate, nonprofit, institutional, or government environment, employees are an organization’s greatest resource.
As such, developing and maximizing mutually beneficial relationships within and beyond the organization is critical to enhance satisfaction and effectiveness.
This is particularly true of leadership as their influence is so pervasively intertwined with the culture of the organization that it influences everything that occurs within that organization.
Types of Organizational Relationships
There are several types of organizational relationships:
As well as the relationships with nonmembers, such as those between an organization and its various publics, including
- And so forth.
Regardless of the level of connectedness, there are characteristics common to all relationships that must be considered to ensure that is rewarding to both parties. Hon and Grunig developed guidelines for measuring relationships as a tool for public relations practitioners to assess the value of their programs.
These guidelines also serve as an excellent framework for examining our relationships, both organizational and interpersonal, to help reflect on areas that may need some attention to enhance the mutual rewards to all parties involved.
6 Components of Relationships
Hon and Grunig identify six components of relationships:
1) Control Mutuality
While balance in a relationship is key to its success, at varying times in the relationship one party will exercise greater control over the other. Control mutuality reflects the understanding between parties that this imbalance will occur, and recognizes (and accepts) that one party will exert greater control at given times.
For example, when a potential client asks you to present them with a solution to an existing problem, you control the situation through your selection of content, presenters, and media that represents your organization and perspective in the best possible light.
Following the presentation, the control shifts to the client who, having several options from which to choose, can negotiate to their advantage.
At some point in all relationships, each party will open up to the other party, creating a level of vulnerability. Trust allows both parties to be confident in engaging in disclosures that help the relationship grow.
When pitching your presentation to a potential client whom you deem credible and desirable, you likely offer unique ideas and creative options. The client trusts that you will come through on the claims you are making and have the resources to do so.
Likewise, you trust that your ideas will remain proprietary and that the client will not use them to their benefit if they decide to go with another firm.
When both parties are happy because the positive expectations about the relationship are reinforced and outweigh the costs of the relationship, satisfaction occurs.
As the relationship with your new client progresses, satisfaction increases for the client as you continue to honor the conditions of your agreement by listening and responding to their needs and honor your commitments.
Your satisfaction increases when the client provides useful information from which to develop a plan; and also from the positive feedback received on the new project in your portfolio, as well as the potential for continued work or referrals.
Relationships take effort, and commitment is indicated by a desire from both parties to continue with the relationship because they feel it is worth their energy to maintain and develop.
Even the best relationship experience challenges, but when a strong foundation based on trust and satisfaction is in place, it remains worthwhile to pursue. Communicating openly about concerns and disagreements helps keep both the task and relational aspects in focus in order to achieve common goals.
The remaining two components characterize the relationship more holistically.
5) Exchange Relationship
When one party in the relationship does something for the other party as reciprocation, either for a past or future service, it is considered an exchange relationship.
6) Communal Relationship
When both parties provide benefits to each other out of concern rather than payback, seeking no additional recompense, the relationship is communal.
For example, if your client moved up an important deadline to accommodate an unplanned visit from the CEO you might accelerate the schedule to meet the new deadline. As recognition for your effort, you might request additional payment or consideration for future projects (exchange relationship).
Alternately, you might make the necessary adjustments to meet the deadline simply because your client needs the assist (communal relationship).
Investments in Developing Relationships
While seeking compensation for services rendered is certainly reasonable, there may be occasions when building the relationship offers far greater benefits than would adherence to policy. As such, developing communal relationships should be an inherent organizational goal, particularly in key relationships, internal or external, that you would like to develop.
Beyond enhancing the relationship, individuals also experience positive outcomes such as greater self-esteem and satisfaction with life, further adding to benefits of engaging in such practices. Future posts will discuss each of these characteristics in more detail
Have you given thought recently whether your organization is (genuinely) people first or profit first? What practices do you employ that contribute to building communal relationships? Are these practices the norm within your culture, or “special circumstances?”
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