Performing a task in an organization often involves contributions by many people. It is a social activity. Virtually any kind of work requires social interaction with several individuals. The salesman interacts with his customers, the doctor with his patients, the supervisor with his subordinates and the teacher with students. Further, most workers are members of one or more work groups with whom they may interact more frequently.

Interpersonal relations may be seen to form contracts. These contracts involve agreements to interact in particular ways. We may interact with many people but may not necessarily enter into a relationship. A relationship comes into existence only when we have certain expectations about appropriate ways of behaving.

In the work context, employees build different kinds of relationships with others. These may be a result of both the formal work role and the position in the organizational hierarchy. People have to interact with the boss, with coworkers and the peer group.

Superior-Subordinate Relationship

Every employee has to build a relationship with the boss to seek instructions and guidance. It is the boss who allows (or disallows) the subordinate to participate in decision making, gives assignments, evaluates performance, determines pay increments and decides who has to be promoted. The kind of relationship that an employee shares with the boss depends upon the leadership style adopted by the boss.

Leadership Styles

  • Authoritarian: Management directs and uses threats and punishment to enforce orders and get the work done by subordinates. Involves one way downward communication.

  • Paternalistic: Basically authoritative but permits some participation to subordinates. Involves two-way communication between boss and subordinates. Rewards and threats are employed to enforce the orders.

  • Consultative: Orders are issued and goals set after consultation with the employees. Team work is encouraged to some extent.

  • Participative: Employees are fully involved in setting the goals and twoway communication becomes the norm.

Generally the more the boss takes into consideration the needs and judgments of the subordinates and the more participative his style of functioning the greater the productivity and satisfaction of the employees and the less the absenteeism and employee turnover.

Relationship with Co-workers and Peer Group

We spend more time with colleagues than with anyone else. The work group context affects our experiences at the work place. Relationship with coworkers does not develop according to rules and regulations as stated in formal terms. Relationship with peer group often develops as a result of common taste, likes and dislikes.

Some employees are more interdependent on their coworkers and provide an opportunity for the employees to have greater ease in interaction. Also, coworkers provide an opportunity for the employees to compare their beliefs with similar others. It is likely that a newcomer will first look at his or her work group peers for appropriate ways of behaving. For example, the employee may learn from his peer group that is not appropriate to give an opinion about the company policy even when asked by the boss.

Besides, learning the unwritten rules within the organization the peer group also provides an outlet for employees to express their emotions which they cannot do with their supervisors. So such relationships provide job satisfaction and increase organizational commitment. One critical factor which helps establishing the context for the development of interpersonal relationships and adopting the work roles is the process of organizational socialization.

Organizational Socialization

The process of organizational socialization refers to the process by which an individual employee acquires the knowledge and skills necessary for assuming a place within the organization. Before entering any organization we are socialized on a number of occasions from early life by our parents and others about how to behave in particular ways as members of society.

At every stage in life we have to get accustomed to the changes faced. Just as adjustments need to be made when people get married, have children, etc. in the same way when an individual joins a work organization he has to learn to interact and collaborate with others, and build relationships with others. These relationships then help to have knowledge about accepted behaviours and attitudes within the organization.

Entering a work organization serves as an important basis for adult socialization. This kind of socialization is a continuous process and not a single event. It continues as a person shifts from one work role to another and one environmental situation to another. It is a two-way process where not only does the individual internalizes the values, goals and objectives of the organization but the organization also has to adapt itself to cater to the needs of the diverse workforce made up of women and other minority groups.

Thus, both the individual and the organization adapt to each others’ needs as each has a set of expectations that must be met. There seems to be a psychological contract between the two. A psychological contract is not a written document but a shared understanding that aids in the process of fulfilling mutual expectations.

Communication

The effectiveness of all interpersonal relations lies in the quality of communication. It is through communication that we are able to exchange thoughts, feelings, emotions and experiences to others. For the smooth functioning of any organization the members of the organization should be able to communicate among themselves.

Meaning: Communication entails the transfer of meaning between a sender and receiver. It establishes a common frame of reference for understanding among individuals. Although some basic form of communication occurs between all living organisms nonetheless, only human beings have the unique capacity to transmit information with the help of symbols.

Symbols could refer to simple objects in the physical world like tables, chairs, books, etc. or they may refer to activities like eating, reading, sleeping and so forth. At an abstract level symbols may be used to refer to concepts like intelligence, truth, worthiness, etc. The use of language by humans represents the most evolved use of symbols. Communication may be spoken or written. It may take place between (a) two individuals, (b) in a group, (c) in the entire organization, and (d) with masses.

Organizational communication may entail the use of computers. Thus, from the point of view of organization both mechanical and human communication become important.