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3. Manage relationships

Key ideas

  • The use of good interpersonal skills (by everybody) will assist in establishing more constructive behaviours and provide the social glue for people to work together. However interpersonal skills have limited value in a workplace and/or a working relationship which is otherwise flawed in its design or is subject to ineffective leadership.


Strong working relationships are grounded on a foundation of mutual trust. Trust in the workplace is defined as 'the ability to rely upon others to be truthful, to do as they say and to follow established rules, procedures, custom and practice'. This trust is felt, not agreed or consciously judged. It is not brought about by everybody being friendly or getting on. It arises from the nature of the social and physical context within which people relate and is system-based.

People want and need to work together. However the work environment ie its structure, systems of work, definition of role relationships, or lack thereof, critically influence people's ability to do their best work.

To build and maintain desired working relationships requires setting the right workplace conditions to enable productive work. This includes but is not limited to, the need for each relationship and its context to be defined and understood by the parties concerned.

Managing relationships at work is about:

  • setting the right workplace conditions for productive work
  • understanding people differences and how to harness these to fully utilised all of a person's capability
  • appropriately engage and openly resolve issues that may otherwise impede effective working
  • making sense of workplace issues that will impact team members by engaging face to face and interpreting for individual meaning
  • understanding yourself and your impact on others.

Managing relationships is not about:

  • being charismatic, using charm or trading favours
  • building or sustaining personal friendships or social relationships. This is an individual's private business and nothing to do with an organisation.
  • liking each other
  • relying on working the politics within an organisation.

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Access member downloads for Manage relationships including:

  • Setting conditions for constructive working relationships
  • Building trust and a strong manager-employee relationship
  • Understanding yourself
  • Working constructively with your own manager
  • Working constructively with specialists and cross functional roles
  • Working constructively with peers
  • Managing conflict
  • Tools and resources - Short guide to managing relationships

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