At Work & Theology 101

How to Spend the Right Amount of Time Developing Relationships at Work

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In my previous article, I asked the important question, “When building relationships among our team members at work, how much time is too much?” Then I discussed what Jesus and Paul did to build relationships. Here in part 2, we’re going to apply their lessons to our own work relationships.

What have I done to build my team?

I have been intentional and consistent to develop my employees. I set high standards and enforce them. I get them to think, feel, and act the way I would in certain situations. I train them on skills they may lack. I thank them for their efforts and help them improve when needed. I take a genuine interest in them, their families, and their military careers beyond this assignment. This takes time in daily conversations with all—some long, but most short. Even if what we talk about is not directly work-related (current events, sports, movies, etc.), it all serves a purpose.

One of my sisters is a medical technician who has worked at the same hospital for forty years. She gives another reason to take time with your employees: “to train the young people learning to take my place. They need my wisdom and experience and stories from back in the day.” Developing young leaders not only sets them up for success, but also improves the organization.

When my folks depart, they go away knowing what they did made a difference. Whether they are moving to their next duty station or leaving the Army, they will leave here knowing what right looks like. In their next assignment, perhaps they can make a difference by passing on some of the lessons they learned under my leadership on how to treat folks with dignity and respect

What is the right balance?

I think the right answer to my question about balance may be that “you will just know.” 

It will be obvious when you’ve spent far too little time developing relationships among your team members if there is a preponderance of bad attitudes, fighting among coworkers, resistance to change, a weariness under the constant pressure, etc. Trust becomes non-existent and a sense of humor disappears. On the flip side, if there is not enough focus on making the mission happen, the organization begins to fail, causing it and its leaders to develop a bad reputation, diminished customer loyalty, and an unneeded team because the organization has become irrelevant. If you lose the parent company, the team disbands, and everyone loses in the end.

Investing in the talents, potential, and personal growth of the individuals on your team and building relationships among your team members will definitely have some heavy up-front costs. It does take time to stop looking at emails, stop answering the phone, or stop planning a special event to close the door to get some one-on-one time with members of your team. You may have to find a way to be willing to make yourself vulnerable in group settings to share some of your own weaknesses, which shows genuine humility to your team and encourages them to do the same.

However, I can tell you that when those teammates depart the organization, and they tell you and each of their team members by name that this was an amazing place to work because leaders truly cared for them and that we treated each other with dignity and respect, you will be moved to tears as I was recently. And you will know that without a doubt, you would not change a thing. 

In the words of an officer who worked on my team for five months and just left, “Work isn’t so bad if you build yourself a home around it. And you certainly have created a home here, not just for yourself, but for others like me longing to be accepted, appreciated, and acknowledged.”

Yes, some may see that the time I spend developing relationships in my section as a weakness. However, I know in my heart that God has called me to lead my team in this way. I hope that others are able to see the value in this approach, and that for a Christian leader, it is a wise one.

Editor’s Note: This article was adapted with permission from the author’s website. Find the original article here.

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