The Meaningful Workplace Covenant

The Workplace Covenant™ is a trademarked, exclusive relationship-building process developed by Silver Consulting.

In brief, a workplace covenant is an agreed-upon set of behavioral commitments that a manager makes to his/her team, and a reciprocal set of behavioral commitments that the team then makes to the manager and one another.  The context of these promises is ‘what key behaviors and attitudes would it take from me/us, to help you feel supported and succeed’. Both sides come up with their lists independently; they share, discuss and as appropriate edit/merge their lists; and when both sets of now refined promises are sufficiently understood and accepted by the other ‘party’, they are signed as a gesture of commitment. These behavioral promises, or ‘covenants’ (not intended in the religious sense of the word) are reviewed formally several times a year (every two months seems quite effective); informally on a frequent basis, e.g. in routine 1:1s between the manager and a team member; and are referred to often so that the manager and team can ‘check in’ on the work relationships and exchange feedback on what could improve to ensure continued/strengthened support. In short, the Workplace Covenant is a behavior contract designed to make sure the manager is focused on supporting the team; and that the team is focused on supporting the manager and fellow team members. Based on recent research and numerous anecdotal accounts, the results from this process include increased mutual respect, trust, team alignment, engagement, and team performance.

One Development Session and Three Follow-Up Workshops:

Each manager and team going through the standard Workplace Covenant process receives one development session and three follow-up team workshops facilitated by a consultant (or HR or other third party trained in the process):

Workplace Covenant Development Session.  This is the initial three-hour session where the concept is outlined and both the manager and the team respectively develop, share, discuss, edit/merge, agree upon, and sign their lists, hence creating the ‘workplace covenants’ to one another

Workshop 1: Covenant Review1  This is the first of two formal two-hour reviews of the covenants and    is an opportunity for positive and constructive feedback on the working relationship andfacilitated Q/A on what can be changed to increase mutual support and performance. Thissession is usually scheduled about two months after the initial session

Workshop 2: Covenant Review 2.  This is the second formal two-hour review of the covenants facilitated by the consultant, and should also be held about two to three months after the first covenant review

Workshop 3 Covenant Review 3.Finally this is the third formal review facilitated by the consultant, and is an opportunity to assess how the process has affected levels of trust, alignment and performance.

Following the standard fourworkshops, usually scheduled over a five/six month period, the manager and team will be ready to handle the covenant process and related reviews without the consultant’s involvement. In short, they will now ‘own it’ and be able to make self-corrections to their working relationship without external facilitation.

The Workplace Covenant*

  • The Workplace Covenant can address, even prevent, many common ‘team dysfunctions’, such as lack of trust, fear of conflict, avoidance of accountabilityIt is a process to improve professional workplace relationships
  • It is a process for Constructive Dialogue and Negotiation on how the Manager and the Team will work together, to ensure both ‘parties’ feel supported and are successful
  • It is a way to position the Team as a ‘customer’ for the manager; and a way for the manager to be positioned as a (but not the only) ‘customer’ for the Team
  • The process helps to surface implicit needs and expectations, and make them explicit, in the form of a two-way contract
  • There is a ‘leveling of the playing field’, so both parties see each other as partners, and therefore with the right/responsibility to exchange helpful and constructive feedback
  • The outcome is a signed agreement which serves as a ‘road map’ and set of honor-bound ground-rules for the team/manager relationship (which should augment or even replace other less timely, less user-friendly, organizational processes)
  • When referred to regularly, the Workplace Covenant provides an on-going mechanism to assess morale, mutual support, team behavior, manager/team performance, and to make timely ‘course-corrections’ as needed

The Workplace Covenant Process Works Well in Six Situations:

  1. Where a team wants to go from “good to great” (or even “great to superb”), that is, they are functioning pretty well, but desire to do better and get to the “next level”
  2. Where there is a newmanager, who needs to ‘hit the ground running’ and have his/her team go through “form, storm, norm” and get to ‘perform’ quickly
  3. Where a team is under-performing, and there are communication/cooperation issues on the team
  4. Where there is low trust, or conflict, between a manager and his/her staff
  5. Where managers who are being trained in leadership, given 360 feedback, or are receiving executive coaching, need a practical way to improve the relationship with their staff
  6. And finally, where there are twogroups or departments that need to work better together as partners

Workplace Covenant Questions

Supervisor/Manager/Executive Questions

Q1:    What are 6-8 key behavioral/attitudinal Obligations I have to my Team, so they will feel supported and can be successful?

Q2:    What are 5-7 key behavioral/attitudinal Expectations I have of my Team, so I will feel supported and can be successful?

Optional Q3: Three areas I will pay special attention to (i.e. will try to improve); two areas they should pay special attention to (i.e. try to improve)?

Q4: In the context of our professional working relationship, and to make it better, what are 2-3 questions I have for my Team?

Team Questions:

Part A:

Q1:    What are 6-8 key behavioral/attitudinal Obligations we have to our Manager, so he/she will feel supported and can succeed?

Q2:    What are 5-7 key behavioral/attitudinal Expectations we have of our Manager, so we will feel supported and can succeed?

Optional Q3: Three areas we will pay special attention to (i.e. will try to improve); two areas he/she should pay special attention to (i.e. try to improve)?

Q4:    In the context of our professional working relationship, and to make it better, what are 2-3 questions we have for our Manager?


Part B – Separate Document:

Q1:    What are 5-7 key behavioral/attitudinal Obligations we have to each other as colleagues/peers in this Team?  In other words, for us to be effective, respectful, and work well together, how shall we interact?  What are some ‘ground-rules’, norms, and promises that we will abide by?

What are Some Benefits of The Workplace Covenant?

Please re-look at the boat cartoon.  This image, while cute, depicts how many teams and their managers unfortunately view themselves, that is, unconnected to the success of each other.  The Workplace Covenant is designed to help both ‘parties’ of any professional workplace relationship truly see themselves as ‘in the same boat’.

The Workplace Covenant process has a number of intended benefits.  First, it ‘forces’ the manager to see him/herself as a ‘supplier’ to their team and responsible for key behaviors that will help them to feel supported and be successful.  In short, over time, this makes the manager into a better people leader for the team and more focused on helping them achieve and feel ‘safe’.  Second, it ‘forces’ the team to reach agreement on key professional behaviors they will supply to their manager so he/she feels supported and is successful.  And if the team develops a covenant to one another (recommended), then there is also heightened standards and awareness in peer-to-peer interactions.  Third, the process requires on-going formal reviews (as a whole group, every 2-3 months) and informal reviews (perhaps monthly between the manager and individuals).  These reviews and the related two-way feedback ensure the topic of ‘how can we can work more effectively together’ is routinely raised, not reactively in response to a problem or crisis, but proactively as a ‘standard operating process’ to ensure engagement and positive manager/team relations.  That is, both the manager and team receive periodic feedback on what is going well or not well, and can make adjustments as appropriate.  In effect, the team has the opportunity to ‘coach’ the manager on how to be a better leader for them; and the manager has license to be a coach for them on how they can be a better team for the manager.  Last, over the past three years, there has been research on the long term effects of this process, and the early findings suggest that ‘ERTAP’ (empathy, respect, trust, alignment and performance) does improve over time.

Impact of The Workplace Covenant

Leadership Development – managers become better leaders:

  • Staff viewed as a ‘customer’ for the manager
  • Routine feedback provided from staff to manager, which helps the manager to
    better support the team
  • Promotes regular dialogue on alignment and mutual support
  • Promotes timely surfacing of issues,
    pulse on team functioning and morale

Performance Management – the performance of teams and managers improves:

  • 1:1 review of covenants enables manager to team member performance feedback
  • Self/team reviews fosters self-awareness and continuous improvement
  • Supports individual objectives

Culture – gets more positive and becomes a competitive strength:

  • Facilitates regular dialogue about professional relationships and performance
  • Supports principle of keeping promises and two-way accountability
  • Strengthens Psychological Safety and team cohesion
  • Reminds team of their goals
  • Enhances intra-team trust and partnership, and between the team and manager
  • Improves staff engagement