Assessing Your Working Environment

The Relationship Model

Have you ever had the experience of being really unhappy at work, but you just can’t quite put your finger on the reason? Or maybe you can easily identify what is causing your frustration or unhappiness, but you are powerless to do anything about it. Imagine what it would be like if you could identify the problems at work and did have the power to fix a bad working environment.

The Relationship ModelTM will help you to do both. Here’s how.

There are seven common problems that occur and reoccur in the workplace. It will help first of all to determine whether one of these is causing your pain. Naturally, nothing is simple and it is entirely possible that you are experiencing more than one of these problems or something quite unique. In any case, it is likely that what you are experiencing has a root in one of four areas that make up the working relationship. The formula for a healthy relationship is Healthy Working Relationship = Structure and Process over Values.

Behavioural Values

All behaviour, yours and that of others at work, is directly related to values. The most healthy and helpful values at work are affirmation, involvement (in decision-making) and empowerment. But there are other values – negative ones – we have all experienced (and may demonstrate) at work. For example, some people value power more than the three core values mentioned above. On the other hand, the opposite may be demonstrated, a laissez-faire approach to work where there may be little contact with your source of authority. A “hands off” approach is the dominating value. Both result in unhappiness in the working environment. The first is abusive and the other is unsupportive.

Authority with Limitations

Many workers are under-resourced. There just isn’t enough authorization, money or people to get the job done. That results in demoralized staff, missed goals, discouragement or fear of failure. Sometimes you don’t know whether you have the authority or not. A healthy work environment is one in which you feel free to act because the limits of authority are clear. Actually, they should be part of your job description. They are in the Relationship ModelTM.

Responsibility with Expectations

Goals are an important part of the working environment. They describe the expectations of the job. It is very difficult to succeed when you don’t know what is expected of you. Worse yet, is the environment where the goal posts keep changing and you can never reach your goals. Expectations are a vital part of a successful working environment. What is expected of you must be negotiated with you in relation to the resources that are delegated to you. Limitations can be imposed, but expectations must be negotiated. Keeping a balance between your authority and responsibility is the vital key to your fulfillment and your productivity.


Often thought of in negative terms like discipline and punishment, accountability is actually a neutral term denoting the measurement of results. It is often lacking or if present it can also be unfair. Accountability serves two purposes. First, it is the process that weighs authority and responsibility to determine they balance. If resources are limited, expectations must also be limited.

Accountability also measures the results of your efforts. Did you realize your goals within the limits of your authority and resources? If you didn’t reach your goals, you and your source of authority will want to re-negotiate the resources required for the next year. Of course, there is always the possibility that your own gifts are stronger in some other area of work, but before any drastic change is made by you or your employer it’s important to determine just what the obstacle to success really is.

Accountability is a two-way process. Your source of authority is accountable to you for providing the resources you need to reach your goals. You are accountable for reaching the goals you have accepted without exceeding your authority or the resources.

Life at work can be very complex, but virtually all difficulties will have their roots in the relationship defined by these four headings. The difficulties may result in one of these “seven deadly sins” or any number of other unique and painful problems.

Les Stahlke, President/CEO Inc.

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