How to be a Boss at Relationship Conversations: 5 Top Tips

Following our webinar with the amazing experts over at OnePlusOne (a relationship research charity with 50+ years of experience) we bring you a helpful guide to supporting your employees though personal relationship stress.

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We’ve all been there haven't we? We’re tired, stressed, the energy bills have gone up and tensions are starting to rise at home. All very normal. This is not something often talked about at work, being deemed as inappropriate and “not for the workplace”.

Personal Relationships Impact Productivity at Work

However, according to our pals at OnePlusOne, research has shown that there is a significant link between the quality of our personal relationships and our productivity and output at work. 

As seen within our neuroscience model, positive relationships and a feeling of safety are essential to achieve happiness. 

Talking to your employees about such a personal topic can be a tricky one to navigate and has often been seen as taboo. However, OnePlusOne have a few helpful tips.

3 Tips For Approaching Conversations With Employees Around Personal Relationships 

There are a few things to remember before you approach these conversations: 

1. You don’t need to be an expert to be able to offer support

You’re not here to diagnose or solve their issues, you’re simply here to lend an ear and check in. More often than not, just asking ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘Are you ok?’ is enough to begin the conversation.

2. Don’t force it 

These conversations can be really difficult and some might not be ready to talk about their situation. Sometimes signposting resources and helpful information can be the most useful course of action. 

3. Be prepared 

There’s no way to predict when these conversations might come up. Make sure you’re ready to respond if someone comes to you for support. 

5 Tips For Having Conversations With Employees About Personal Relationships

However the conversation transpires, the following tips can help you keep things on track and offer a supportive response. This is the OLPAC approach, a helpful tool created by our pals at OnePlusOne!

1. Open mind

Relationship transitions can bring many challenges. Try to remember that the situation at home might affect how the person responds to you.  

2. Listening ear 

  • The person you are talking to may be feeling vulnerable and exhausted. Offer a safe space for them to talk and make yourself available to listen.  

  • Whether it’s a private office or a breakout space, make sure the conversation is happening somewhere comfortable for them, away from listening ears and where they can feel free to express themselves. 

  • Active listening is an incredibly powerful tool. Adding this into your workplace training can prove beneficial to all.

3. Patient response

  • Your employee may be experiencing daily changes in their circumstances, and things may get worse before they get better. Give it time. 

  • Circumstances change, emotions and moods change - There's no manual for how to deal with difficulties in your personal relationships. Keep this in mind, and be patient. 

  • Sometimes having an outside ear can be helpful. Could your organisation offer talking therapy/counselling to your employees? Care Coins are a fantastic organisation for this, that we offer our employees here at The Happiness Index. 


4. Accommodating nature

  • Be flexible around any practical changes your employee needs to manage. For example, they may need to sort out childcare or living arrangements. 

  • Your employee might have to change their living arrangements, have legal appointments, sort out childcare arrangements. Having the comfort of knowing your workplace is supportive and flexible will help bring them some stability and psychological safety in this turbulent time. 

5. Culture of support

  • Offer flexibility to help staff manage work and family commitments. Even if you don’t have these conversations, you can support your employees by creating a culture in which it’s OK to adapt following personal challenges. 

  • Knowing that your organisation is a supportive and safe space is really important in ensuring your employees feel like they can show up to work as their authentic selves (in line with our #FreedomToBeHuman ethos). Make this information clear to them. Signpost policies on flexible working, mental health support, resources for working parents etc.

  • Is your culture one that allows for adaptability? For employee voices to be heard? For authenticity? Have a look at our Cultural Assessment survey, and get an idea of the landscape of your organisation. 

For more helpful tips, resources and further support check out OnePlusOne

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About The Happiness Index

The Happiness Index helps organisations measure the key employee engagement AND happiness drivers to power their people strategy.

Our unique platform offers the products, insights and tools to shine a light on your cultural health and empower management to drive thriving cultures.

Our neuroscience-based pre-built surveys measure the full employee experience - from onboarding to exit to empower and enable organisations to understand their people and create data-led action plans.


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