Can we keep healthy relationships between companies and employees?

Over the past few months, we’ve seen the effects of the workplace that the pandemic has kept hidden. We can quickly pick up when our colleagues’ moods. We can see that the extended period of uncertainty has made some people want to know there’s security in their professional future, while other people find that in staying still where they are right now.

It might seem impossible to keep everyone motivated and happy when people are feeling so differently. Managers and HR teams are also people who are going through the same period of complexity. We’re asking them to look at others and how they are feeling, but at the same time it can all feel a bit “big brother”. The current corporate dynamics between businesses and their employees aren’t dissimilar to an old couple. There are so many feeling mixed up in there, that it would be so easy to fall into post-pandemic quicksand.

I’ve been inspired by a Harvard Business Review article  “With so many quitting, don’t overlook those who stay” – a concept that could easily be applied to our personal lives too. Here are three practical takeaways that we can take from couple life to our professional relationships:

Don’t settle for exhausted relationships, even when routines might feel safe. Sometimes fatigue can determine the temperature of a relationship. Establishing whether it’s healthy can seem too much. It’s all to easy to fall into routines, feel assured by income coming in at the end of the month and telling ourselves that it’s “always better than working down a mine”. But professional relationships take up so much of our lives and they deserved to be cared for. We need to see them as essential, and start to get worried if they aren’t. Couples go through rough patches when people and circumstances change, but the way that we look at them doesn’t. When time passes and our expectations don’t keep up, we’ll feel less seen and see others less too. Times of crisis can go on for so long, settling for something because we need it. But if we’re not happy, we’ll not be very productive and we’ll always be waiting for something exciting to turn up to help us feel alive again. How can we break this cycle?

It takes two to tango. Often managers and people that work in HR teams feel and behave as though maintaining relationships depends solely on them. This old way of thinking leads to feeling like we have to control people. But if we look at it through the lens of a couple, we’re reminded that healthy relationships need both sides to take an active role. Both are called to take notice if something isn’t working properly, taking responsibility and to take steps to putting things right, if they want to keep going. If it works, but even if it ends, there are always two people in a relationship. There’s not one who transmits and one who receives, but rather two adults that have decided to dance together and choose this relationship every day. A choice made through words and acts, even when the music changes.

Parting ways doesn’t mean failure. Sometimes it happens. People leave each other, people resign. It’s interesting to see that in some workplaces, managers can see resignation as though the person has cheated on the company. People can feel abandoned, triggering emotional reactions, where separation is seen as breaking the pact they made. But sometimes separation needs to happen. It’s a decision to break away from a fatigued relationship. It’s a way of making space for new opportunities: organizational change, career moves, a way of finding solutions to problems that had arisen. Of course, it hurts. If that person was there with us, they would have been responding to our needs and we would have invested in them. But crisis is a catalyst for renewal. Maybe it’s the only thing that brings about real change.

Let go of those who no longer love us: we might even notice that we stopped loving them some time ago. It’s an opportunity to take a closer look at the people who are left, to make new alliances and break away from routine. By doing so, we’ll remind ourselves of all the reasons why we love what we do.

This article was originally written by Riccarda Zezza and published on the Il Sole 24 Ore blog, Alley Oop. To read the original article (in Italian), please click here