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Quality of Relationships

You know that awkward moment when you realise the person you're talking with is not on the same page? It's even worse when conclusions are made or actions taken based on a misunderstanding of the conversation, like the dentist that pulled the wrong tooth, or the navigator that meant the “other left”.


In this COVID-19 season, many of us feel the strain of being disconnected from our team, having too much work or not enough work, or being forced to compromise in the way we work. Clear thinking, communication and decision making become more difficult. For some, the sudden change in technology is a source of stress, while for others, the new tools have triggered innovation or improvement.

Stories are emerging of new relationships formed during the COVID season, and the flattening of hierarchies as all levels pitch in during the crisis. I hope we see a permanent shift towards more dynamic partnering on the frontline of community service provision, inspired by our COVID experience.


To understand this relational shift and how it can be sustained beyond COVID, we need to look deeper than the transactional and circumstantial factors of a pandemic. The Relational Proximity Framework is a tool for defining and measuring the quality of relationships, developed by The Relationships Foundation and Relational Research. It consists of five dimensions that each contribute to the strength and quality of relationship:

  1. Directness of Communication – Increasing presence, reducing mediation or filtering

  2. Continuity of Story – Managing the gaps between interactions

  3. Multiplexity of Information – Improving the breadth and quality of information

  4. Parity of Power – the fair use of power in distributing risks and rewards

  5. Commonality of Purpose – Unifying through shared goals and/or identity

Taking specific actions to reduce the gaps in these five dimensions will not only improve the quality of your workplace relationships, it will improve your business performance as well. If we have learnt one thing from this COVID season, it is to never underestimate the power of people banding together around a common cause, distributing the power and load, and shortening communicating lines to get things done.

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