Auditing Your Workplace Relationships


First published in 1989, Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was life-changing for me in many ways.  I especially appreciated the concept of the Emotional Bank Account, even though it technically isn’t one of the “habits”.

Throughout my life, this simple idea of relationship “deposits” and “withdrawals” has helped me monitor the way I interact with others to ensure that my interpersonal “ledger sheet” is just as healthy as my financial one.

Not too long ago, there was a situation in my household where one of my children fibbed to me prior to bedtime. The next day, after discovering the truth of the situation, I found myself ever-so-slightly less trusting of answers being given from said child. I was shocked at my hasty conclusion– surely one fib does not a liar make! Luckily, I was able to recall the Emotional Bank Account and use the simple analogy to help the fibber understand that there had been a decrease in our Mother/Child trust account.

Yes, the “withdrawal” in the example above was small, but it reminded me how quickly our interpersonal resources can be drained of trust.

How healthy is your Emotional Bank Account? The good news is that making deposits is 100% free – the only currency required is concentrating a bit on which relationships might need a bit of interpersonal investment.

When’s the last time you audited your workplace relationship ledger?

Here’s a chart to help you determine the health of your relationships at work. I’ve created this chart with a workplace focus, but you can also create rows for friends and family. Doing the following activity can help you decide where you might consider placing your energy for the next few weeks to shore up your relationship “finances”. There’s no need to monitor every interaction; that’s too tedious. Just think of those interactions that were significant. For example:

Deposits = praising someone, helping a team mate who is struggling with a personal issue, offering assistance to another team, going the extra mile

Withdrawals = losing your cool with someone, letting an important deadline slip, throwing somebody “under the bus”/blaming

Consider this: what would happen if you monitored your interactions for a week or two and then did an analysis, by asking yourself:

  • Is there a theme to the Deposits and Withdrawals?
  • Are there certain events that seem to bring on Withdrawals?
  • With whom are you more likely to Deposit?

Trust is often seen as a scarce commodity in the workplace, but it needn’t be. All it takes is mindful attention to the way we connect as human beings to put our relationship balance sheet back in order.

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