All human services are provided and received in the context of staff to staff relationships. Research has demonstrated that toxic and dysfunctional relationships are present in many human service settings, and cost organizations at least $1.4 billion per year in workplace productivity. (Tunajek, 2007). To address this, organizations must do more than end violence, they must find ways to promote healthy relationships between staff.
Supervisory and managerial staff must demonstrate healthy relationships, because there is a general truism in psychology and other helping professions: You can only give what you have. If we want our staff to give dignity and respect to service users, they must have it to give it! (Bowen et al, 2011)
This is one of the principle tenets of The Mandt System® and why we believe it is so important to focus on these relationships first. Robert L. Katz wrote an article for Harvard Business Review in 1974 in which he said that administrators needed to have three skill sets to be effective leaders – Relational skills, Conceptual skills, and Technical skills.
In our training, we ask if anyone has ever been to a doctor who was disrespectful. In almost every group, 2 or 3 people raise their hands. We then ask “did you fill the prescription?” or “did you go back?” and everyone answers “NO!” They may have had great advice, however, with poor relational skills.
Relational skills will open the door to the conceptual and technical skills offered in human service settings. Relational skills will make the conceptual and technical skills of staff even more effective because they are trusted. Dr. Peter Breggin, quoted above, says “It is easier to de-escalate with someone you know and trust than someone you do not know and cannot trust, or someone you know and do not trust.”