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Want to Avoid the Great Resignation? Develop Relationships!

Back in the day, I worked as the Pepsi Taste Challenge girl. Do you remember that? If you do, you’re kind of dating yourself (or does it still go on? maybe it does🤔 ).

I found it quite remarkable how many people swore unflagging allegiance to Coke but ended up choosing Pepsi in the blind taste test. To add to that, many of these same people would get really angry at me, claiming I must have switched the bottles or that both bottles contained Pepsi. The only way they could have chosen Pepsi is they were tricked!

I promise, I did not switch out anything. Pepsi won fair and square, but those people who were so loyal to Coke would not switch, in spite of preferring the taste of Pepsi.

People chose Coke not because of the taste (that much was proven) but because of the strong emotional connection they had to the product. It brought happiness to their lives, so they liked to “have a coke and a smile”.

Their relationship with their manager can forge similar emotional connections for employees. Their manager is the most common reason people state for leaving a job, but it’s also the most common reason people stay in their jobs.

“Managers account for up to 70% of variance in employee engagement.” – Gallup

Great managers engage their teams and create environments where employees are productive. But, not many teams are led by great managers. This is a key reason why employee engagement is low, and sliding lower after more than a decade of progress. People are feeling disconnected with their work and their managers and are seeking something better.

The lesson is pretty straightforward—managers must pay attention to the people who report to them. They should be putting a focus on developing relationships with them and respect their time, effort, and feelings.

An excellent way to build relationships is through One-On-One conversations. When done regularly and with open communication, One-On-Ones can be the key to open communication with employees. By spending time together, both managers and their reports learn what makes the other tick. Issues that affect the employee, the team, the department, and the company can be discussed, and the employee will be brought into the loop on how their efforts contribute to overall success.

This is also the way to develop trust and loyalty. Without making an investment in building connections, there will be no trust. Trust is something that’s earned. It’s not automatically given to someone when they get a manager title. If managers want to earn trust, then they have to put in time building the relationship foundation.

Success in business begins with success in the employee/manager relationship, which begins with communication. This is the root of trust, which affects, in turn, the quality of communication, individual effort, and work quality. It’s highly important we take the time to develop relationships and trust with our team members, and the best way to do this is through regular, frequent One-On-One conversations.

I realize this can be challenging. Who has time to sit and chat with their reports? Well, managers better make time. One-On-Ones not only help managers to develop productive relationships with their reports, they also provide opportunity to do a pulse check on employee morale and stress level—are they happy and productive? Or are they a flight risk? (Great Resignation, anyone?)

Thirty minutes, once per week is recommended, but if you can’t do that, then commit to as often as you can—at least once per month. And honour the commitment. This speaks volumes to employees who, often, have the impression their company cares very little about them. Honouring the commitment indicates respect, and, since most people don’t feel very respected at work, this will make an impact.

Bringing it back to Coke and Pepsi, here’s a little more information they found in the research phase. In the blind taste test, slightly more than half of testers preferred Pepsi over Coke. Then the testers made a slight change and told people exactly what they would be drinking before drinking it. Suddenly, 75% of the testers preferred the taste of Coke. The emotional part of their brain lit up and all the happy memories associated with Coke became active.

That’s amazing connection!

Our thoughts, feelings, and memories can change our experience with a product, and with our workplace. The key is to develop a relationship with employees that encourages the feeling of connection. If managers can do that, then they can inspire loyalty and engagement, and wouldn’t it be great to have that at work?


The One-On-One Conversation is one of the foundational pieces of my manager training programs. Learn more here:

Or check out my book, where how to hold effective One-On-Ones is outlined. I also have a free One-On-One conversation template on my website. Please feel free to download and use.

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