Relationships are Not the Basis for Getting Work Done

I’m always pretty bothered by conversations about work that assume relationships are the foundation of getting stuff done.

By Chally Kacelnik

I’m always pretty bothered by conversations about work that assume relationships are the foundation of getting stuff done. That is, some people posit that you’ve got to build personal connections with other people at work in order to accomplish anything. What if you aren’t an extrovert, or loud, or in a position that fosters lots of connections? If you leave the organisation, does everything for everyone else have to start over because it was all based in the relationships you had?

Ways of organising work that rely on personal visibility or connections are as brittle as they are opaque. Consistent, documented expectations, with a shared understanding of systems and processes, are the way to go. I’ve heard too many clients say variations on:

  • She’s one of the rising stars here, so her projects get off the ground
  • If I weren’t part of the CEO’s office, no one would listen to me
  • They’ll only respond to your requests if they like you

You can’t hold someone to account on the basis of whether they’re mates with someone else or not. You can and should hold them to account for doing the work of their role. If people aren’t doing work because they don’t feel obliged to help a particular person, it is up to the leaders of the organisation to reframe what’s going on: they are obliged to help work get done, with whomever they need to interact in undertaking a piece of work. Someone who builds great relationships and leaves everyone else to get the work done is likewise not an asset to your organisation. Great relationships are a positive thing, and they aren’t the same thing as a positive, equitable, or productive work environment.

I’m not sure how anyone gets work done if they’re acting as though they’re in a playground rather than at work! Unfortunately, too many leaders encourage these dynamics because they enjoy the sense of power over others, rather than operating within the authority of their role to enable everyone to do what they need to do at work. If any of this is sounding like your organisation, it’s time to reset.

Don’t foster weird interpersonal dynamics at work! Enable people to get work done.

At LKS Quaero, we support organisations with organising work for better results. For more information, visit us at or follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook.