4 Critical Ingredients for Great Relationships

February 02nd, 2017 Elizabeth Massing

I am nearly 20 years into my career, and never a dull moment. By that I don’t mean that I’m dealing with one workplace nightmare after another. I credit much of my success and fulfillment to the relationships I’ve developed over the years.

I spend most of my day to day in really interesting conversations with fascinating people that consider me not only a valuable business resource, but a trusted partner… even a friend. As cliché as that may sound, it’s the truth. And I’m very proud to be seen in that light by so many inspiring people.

Of course, this is Personnel – and we do have to be careful. I do everything in my power to avoid building walls where there could be bridges, but I also have to consider liabilities. And things can get complicated. But that’s life, and we’re all human.

And by being a human myself, I create real relationships with the business leaders I work with and I’m not only exponentially more productive and effective, I’m more fulfilled because of it.

So without further ado…

My 4 Critical Ingredients for Great Relationships:


I’d say this is where the weight of my focus in relationships lies. Fortunately, this is much easier than you might think. There is the old saying, “practice what you preach.” If you want to be trusted, you need to be trustworthy. And this goes miles beyond practicing confidentiality. This also means being genuine by being fair and consistent. In fact, if you want to discard every word but one on this page, pleeease let that one word be “consistency”. If you’re calm, kind, and compassionate on Monday, but cold, intimidating and unfeeling on Tuesday, you’re going to become an outcast on Wednesday. No one likes a phony baloney. Not to mention you’re also opening yourself up to reasonable cause for a discriminatory argument.


This may seem counterintuitive to some HR professionals, but when business leaders are willing to take my expertise and my guidance into consideration, I feel I must be fully transparent. Because to do my job well, I need them to be fully transparent. So I’d better lead by example. And while my experience has been that a “no holds barred” conversation is more constructive for both 1) relationship building and 2) reaching a solution… a little warmth never hurts either. I like to remind people that I’m not here to play judge and jury.


OK, so being consistent and flexible might sound like a giant oxymoron, but hear me out! For liability reasons I know I need to be consistent with standards as far as how I recommend certain issues be addressed – or even whether they need to be addressed at all. But I also need to take into consideration that an approach that works in one scenario may not be effective in another.

When I sit down with someone that needs my help, I have to find out what their needs are well beyond the immediate next steps. Just as you might struggle to erase the experience of terrible service in your favorite restaurant from memory, there are residual effects of missteps in the workplace. I have to be open to hearing other’s concerns or dislikes with my recommendations, and be willing to bend, adapt, and find a solution that they feel good about.


This is absolutely crucial. If I have someone’s attention and trust, I make them my first priority. Otherwise I run the risk of a number of different less than desirable things happening. Remember that when you feel you’re in crisis and you need help, minutes can feel like hours. I don’t want to risk losing someone’s trust or confidence in me. And I certainly don’t want to allow panic to set in. It’s been proven by psychological study that “people under stress are making a difficult decision, they may pay more attention to the upsides of the alternatives they’re considering and less to the downsides.” Meaning we come up with a solution and believe there will be a positive outcome, but in fact have not considered all possibilities… until it’s too late.

Elizabeth Massing

Director of Personnel & Talent at 14 West

“Don’t be scared to take risks and do not settle on mediocracy. You will never achieve greater heights by following the norm.”

Almost 20 years after my first day here as an intern, I still love coming to work every day. I love the creativity and freedom that the company affords me, and the unconventional, fast-paced and dynamic environment. We hold people’s hands when they need holding, but we also love getting the job done. I never accept mediocracy. I believe in taking the time to hire the best people for the job. In fact, I think what most excites me is finding solutions to difficult situations. Most problems cannot be fixed with a one size fits all approach. I like creative solutions and taking an unstructured and flexible approach to solving them. And when we identify a strong idea, we take it and run with it – and see it through to its true worth.

Over the years, I think my secret weapon has really been learning to work well with a lot of different personality types and taking the time to understand people. But I do not believe in micromanaging. As a director and manager of a team of over 30 people, I still believe there is value in every individual’s ideas, regardless of their level of experience. My passion for people extends outside of the workplace and into the community. I serve on the board and are involved with a variety of organizations around Baltimore. Some of these include Living Classrooms Foundation, the Pratt Library, Mount Vernon Club, and Children’s Scholarship Fund Baltimore.

What is your favorite company event of the year? I love our annual team outing because of the genuine friendships our group shares. It is a chance for me to really express my true appreciation for the whole team.