Posted by on April 7, 2016

Relationships and Employee Engagement: Leverage Networks to Drive Engagement

Relationships and employee engagement: What is the connection?

relationships and employee engagement-networks

According to Cross, Gray, Gerbasi, and Assimakopoulos (SciVerse ScienceDirect, 2012), two means for increasing employee engagement are:

  1. building energizing relationships and
  2. identifying and leveraging informal opinion leaders.

Of course, roles and reward systems are important in employee engagement, but workplace relationships matter.

Positive interactions improve well-being

Positive interactions at work improve one’s emotional, physical and cognitive well-being. Through organizational network analysis (ONA), organizations can identify, visualize and analyze the array of interpersonal connections, understand each employee’s impact on engagement, and use interventions to nurture positive interactions. Relationships can produce positive or negative energy.

According to the authors, examples of behaviors that energize relationships include:

  • Standing for something larger than oneself and addressing issues with integrity
  • Seeing realistic possibilities rather than obstacles in conversations
  • Being fully present–mentally and physically–in conversations
  • Being flexible in one’s thinking ¬†without pushing one’s expertise
  • Focusing on issues rather than individuals

You can boost employee engagement by building energizing networks of interactions. Organizations have used training, coaching and behavioral change programs to nurture positive interactions.

Energizers and de-energizers affect engagement

The authors found that those employees who demonstrated top performance were more likely to also be considered energizers by their co-workers. They built mutually energizing relationships.

In contrast, employees who are de-energizers exert a significant negative effect on engagement of those around them. And as social psychology findings suggest, the detrimental impact of negative experiences and interactions is more than twice as strong as the positive effect of energizing experiences. Therefore, identify de-energizers and use interventions such as coaching, changes in roles,  or helping them find jobs elsewhere, if necessary. A key to increasing engagement is building relationships where employees work with their peers in supportive ways.

Therefore, you can increase employee engagement by targeting informal opinion leaders who have a disproportionate effect on others. Keep in mind that highly influential employees can be highly engaged, be moving toward disengagement, or be disengaged. In all situations, they will influence engagement efforts. Relationships can be one key to increasing engagement in an organization.


Posted in: Drivers, Research