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5 Books for Working Relationships

NeverCaughtUp-10.jpeg By Erica Keswin

My firm, OPR Consulting (Organization. Performance. Relationships) specializes in helping businesses identify, develop and manage their greatest asset—their relationships. Harvard Business Review recently reported that the economy loses $1 trillion annually to digital distractions. Now more than ever, HR experts need to do whatever it takes to help employees connect with each other, as meaningful relationships increase creativity, productivity, employee satisfaction and retention—all of which are good for the bottom line.

Here are five books that changed the way I think about working relationships:

This book reinforced what I have seen again and again—the temptation to “dismiss the need for close relationships at work until you focus on the bigger picture.” What Rath makes clear is that the bigger picture is our relationships. We can’t wait until we’ve slogged through our inbox to connect with our colleagues.
2. Sleeping with Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work by Leslie A. Perlow (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012).
Harvard Business School professor Perlow makes it clear that companies can actually change the way they work and break the 24/7 habit. In fact, by detailing an ingenious experiment she conducted with some of the most hard-core workaholics around—management consultants—she shows how strong relationships, open dialogue with colleagues and leadership support are critical to stopping the “always on” cycle. Her experiment resulted in employees who were more satisfied at work and a firm that was able to more easily recruit and retain top talent. A win-win!
As HR professionals, we are always seeking ways to measure the people side of business. Waber accomplishes this by providing metrics around topics that most people view as highly subjective: working relationships, collaboration and even stress reduction. This is nothing short of revolutionary.
4. Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family by Anne-Marie Slaughter (Random House, 2015).
Slaughter’s book has helped me, as a working mother, see how my own struggle to establish balance is not just a personal challenge but one that can and should be taken up by our culture and political institutions at large. Why? Because we are all in this together. This is a must-read for HR professionals who want to learn more about the connections between home, work and life.
5. Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2014).
Schulte highlights the stresses of modern life and the 24/7 nature of technology. Her chapter on business, “When Work Works,” highlights businesses that are challenging the status quo. Companies that create systems, processes and cultures that provide employees time to connect with colleagues, their families and themselves are companies where people want to work. According to Schulte, these companies embarked on a transformation that was “thoughtful, deliberate and embraced from top to bottom.” From an HR perspective, you can’t ask for a better outcome.
Erica Keswin, @oprconsulting on Twitter, is the founder of OPR Consulting in New York City. She has been a management consultant at Booz Allen & Hamilton, Gemini Consulting and Hay Group, as well as executive director at Russell Reynolds Associates and an executive coach at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Since 2011, Keswin has collaborated with Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of Reclaiming Conversation (Penguin, 2015), sharing her research on the impact of technology on relationships.

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