The Power of Reciprocal Relationships in the Workplace: A Guide for HR Professionals

CoachHub · 13 March 2023 · 7 min read

Many relationships thrive on the principle of reciprocity. In the workplace, reciprocal relationships exist between different groups of people and it is important to know how to navigate each of them.

Generally speaking, reciprocal relationships occur when two or more people can influence and benefit from each other in different ways, depending on the needs or wants of the parties involved. Reciprocal relationships can take different forms and the variables involved are often dependent on the nature of the preexisting relationship between all parties.

In the workplace and the business environment, reciprocal relationships can involve executives, employees or customers. Having successful business relationships involves an understanding of the parties involved and what they bring to the table. Reciprocal relationships require a sort of give and take on both ends.

There is no limit to the kinds of exchanges that can occur within reciprocal relationships, as long as the exchange is legal and all parties are aware of the parameters of the exchange.

Most businesses are built on the principle of reciprocal relationships and it is one of the bedrocks upon which long lasting business relationships are built.

What are Reciprocal Relationships?

Simply put, reciprocal relationships are collaborations where individuals influence one another for the purpose of exchanging goods or services.

There are different factors that play into the success of a reciprocal relationship and it involves a clear idea of what the other individuals need. The best way to ensure that you make the best of your professional reciprocal relationships is to adhere to the law of reciprocity.

There are different examples of reciprocal relationships in the workplace and it could be as little as offering a compliment for a job well done.

It could also take the form of awards or bonuses given to employees upon surpassing set goals.

The law of reciprocity necessitates that you treat the other party the way you’d want to be treated, hence the need for communication, empathy, trust and respect.

Building reciprocal workplace relationships is essential because most businesses thrive on the quality of relationships you are able to build along the way. There will always be times when you require the contributions of the people you work with. A healthy reciprocal relationship built on trust creates an avenue for you to receive assistance or input from the people around you.

The Importance of Trust and Communication

To be effective, all relationships need to have a measure of trust at the foundation. This is the basis around which the other dynamics of the relationship are formed. It is quite impossible to benefit from reciprocal relationships when you do not trust the motives of business partners or employees.

In order to build trust, you need to practice effective communication. More often than not, the cause of conflicts or mistrust in the workplace is lack of effective communication. Combat this by making your professional development goals clear from the beginning of the relationship. This way, all parties involved are aware of the parameters.

While building trust and effective communication channels, it is essential to create room for feedback, performance evaluation and transparency. In doing so, you are more sure of building a relationship based on trust and mutual respect, all recipes for a successful reciprocal relationship.

At the end of the day, no relationship can survive without trust and communication and this is even more true for reciprocal relationships.

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Building Reciprocal Relationships with Employees

There are several ways of successfully built-in reciprocal relationships with employees. The law of reciprocity is one that requires you to treat people the way you’d want to be treated if the roles were reversed.

Besides building trust, some of the easiest things to do to form effective reciprocal relationships is by continually expressing appreciation and providing incentives.

These create feelings of belonging among employees, a phenomenon that is excellent for promoting employee retention and engagement. The knowledge that their role is appreciated makes employees more likely to stay and devote their time and abilities to actualize the company’s goals.

This is why it is important to introduce leadership development initiatives in organizations. In doing so, leaders are made to understand the importance of building healthy relationships with employees as well as the best methods of doing so.

Building Reciprocal Relationships with Customers

A lot of new companies are startups that have been known to offer free services to customers to test out their products before they buy. These services don’t have to be the entire package and may just serve as a peak into the experience of patronizing said company. The goal of this is to give the customer time to become familiar with the company and form their own relationship with the goods and services offered.

This helps to build a solid foundation for the business relationship. It also provided the customers with the opportunity to give feedback on their experience.

One of the most important rules of the law of reciprocity is that you have to give to receive. There’s hardly a better application of this law than in the relationship between a customer and a business. The relationship becomes flawed when one party starts to feel like they are giving more than they receive. This creates room for conflicts and misunderstanding.

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The Role of Reciprocal Relationships in Team Building

The modern workplace is diverse and consists of individuals with different backgrounds and expectations. Everyone comes to work hoping to gain different things from the experience. It is not uncommon to see members of the same team expressing different desires. The foundation of reciprocity to facilitate teamwork in this kind of relationship is understanding.

It is important for team leaders and executives to have an understanding of the needs of their team members so they can figure out how to make things work.

Nobody wants to constantly give and give without getting anything in return. One of the best ways to manage a diverse team and promote talent retention is to ensure that healthy compromises are reached where all parties involved can both give and take during the course of the relationship.

The strategy for building reciprocal relationships within teams is much like the strategy for building similar relationships between individuals. At the end of the day, trust and effective communication play a major role in how strong the relationships can be.


Conflict Resolution and Reciprocal Relationships

Every time the topic of reciprocal relationships comes up, trust is one word that makes an appearance. Trust is constantly being emphasized because not only does it help to boost the strength of the relationship, it also becomes necessary during conflict resolution processes.

Like all human relationships, reciprocal relationships are prone to disagreements and conflicts of different kinds. Navigating these disagreements can be tricky without a measure of trust and understanding between the affected parties.

Reciprocal relationships are important in solving conflicts as long as you are able to identify the root causes of the conflict. Sometimes, the origin of a conflict isn’t immediately visible, especially when disagreements erupt out of seemingly small misunderstandings. However, this is where effective communication comes in.

Being able honestly and openly communicate one’s needs and grievances are important steps towards resolving conflicts and creating a mutually beneficial reciprocal relationship.

The quality of organizational behavior and workplace culture is greatly impacted by how well executives and team leaders can build functional reciprocal relationships across board. This necessitates the need for a crop of leaders equipped with the ability to look beyond the superficial to build strong relationships between individuals in an organization.

The quality of reciprocal relationships can often determine how well people can work together in spite of their differences. The key to building a healthy workplace relationship is to endure that everyone involved is committed to building trust and communicating effectively among themselves.


The Benefits of Digital Coaching for Building Reciprocal Relationships

Oftentimes, people are unaware of how to navigate workplace dynamics and create a safe space for reciprocity in their relationships. This has nothing to do with the individual’s professional qualifications as we all have different strengths and weaknesses. This is where digital coaching becomes effective.

Digital coaching can help executives and team leaders in learning new ways to navigate the fast paced work environment. There arises a greater avenue to learn about the differences in individual needs and means of expression.

Through personalized training programs, team leaders can adopt new methods of resolving conflicts in the workplace and building stronger foundations for reciprocal relationships with employees, team members or customers.


Reciprocal relationships are important in the workplace because they form the basis of different interactions and exchanges that take place between workers in an organization.

Building strong reciprocal relationships between workers in an organization ensures that goals can be met faster once all parties involved are committed to ensuring the success of such workplace relationships.

While workplace cultures differ, there are often similarities in the way humans approach reciprocal relationships and this is demonstrated in the way trust and communication are prioritized.

It is necessary that any organization committed to employee motivation, growth and success prioritizes reciprocal relationships among workers, employees and customers.

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Samuel Olawole
Samuel Olawole is a freelance copywriter and content writer who specializes in creating exciting content across a wide range of topics and industries. When he’s not writing, you can find him traveling or listening to good music.

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