Interpersonal Relations at Work Perceived by Croatian and Worldwide Employees and by Different Age, Gender, Education, Hierarchical and Company Size Groups - Empirical Evidence

Article excerpt

Workplaces benefit if workers have good relationships. In other words, in years when people are said to be the only true competitive advantage, it is evident that interpersonal relations in organizations and processes of nourishing them have become essential for the organizational success. The purpose of this article was to concisely explain the importance, types and ways of improving interpersonal relations at work, as well as to explore if, and to what extent, interpersonal relations at work are influenced by employees' backgrounds. The demographic characteristics of employees that were expected to influence their perceptions of interpersonal relations were: the country of origin, age, gender, educational level, hierarchical level, and the size of the company for which they work. The correlation analysis showed that the "country of origin" does influence interpersonal relations at work. Precisely, interpersonal relations in Croatia are, according to the respondents' perceptions, not as good as in other countries involved in the study. For example, Croatian employees perceive the working atmosphere around them as significantly less positive in comparison with the respondents from other countries, they are significantly less frequently consulted by their superiors and rarely praised, and their superiors spend significantly less time with them. However, the research revealed that other demographic characteristics are not of significant influence, either on the overall perceptions of interpersonal relations, or on the perceptions of superior - subordinate or peer relations.

1. INTRODUCTION

As work becomes more complex and collaborative, companies where people work together best have a competitive edge.

Daniel Goleman

In the closing years of the 20th century, management has come to accept that people, and not cash, buildings, or equipment, are the critical differentiators of a business enterprise. As we move into the new millennium and find ourselves in a knowledge economy, it is undeniable that people are the profit lever. All the assets of an organization, other than people, are inert. They are passive resources that require human applications to generate value (Fitz-enz, 2000).

Moreover, the rules of work are changing. People are being judged by a new yardstick: not just by how smart they are, or by their training and expertise, but also by how well they handle themselves and each other (Goleman, 1998). In addition to technical skills, the three most highly sought-after skills in new employees are increasingly oral communication, interpersonal abilities and teamwork abilities (Goleman, 1998). A study of what corporations are seeking in the MBAs they hire yields a similar list. The three most desired capabilities are communication skills, interpersonal skills, and initiative (Goleman, 1998).

This is where interpersonal relations come to play. Since we can see organizations as networks of connected people and as compositions of relationships, a large portion of work performance is tied to the establishment and maintenance of interpersonal connections. The quality of these connections has a great impact on people's ability to get work accomplished and on the functioning of the organization as a whole (Worline et al. in Lord et al. (eds.), 2002). As EEO Trust Survey (Charted Accountants Journal, 2004) found, 81% of respondents think that they are more productive at work if they have good personal relationships because they feel better. In other words, workplaces benefit if workers have good relationships.

However, in reality we frequently cope with the opposite. At work, people regularly deal with people they dislike (Linder, 1994), with difficult people (Accounting Department Management Report, 2003) such as aggressive or conflicting people, or with problem people, for instance overly shy, introvert and non-sociable people. The impact of such people on working efficiency and effectiveness is enormous. …