Interpersonal Relationship Model

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Interpersonal Relationship Model: this article explains the Interpersonal Relationship Model in a practical way. After reading, you’ll understand the basics of this powerful management tool.

What is the interpersonal relationship model?

The interpersonal relationship model is a model that describes interpersonal relations. Although no model with the name ‘Interpersonal Relationship Model’ has been published, enough research has been done into interpersonal relationships to derive a number of basic principles from.

An interpersonal relationship is a strong bond between two or more people. A certain attraction causes these individuals to approach each other. Eventually, after going through the phases described below in this article, this approaching results in a strong interpersonal relationship. Relationships on the job are started and maintained in a roughly similar way, although there are some differences.

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Interpersonal Relationships on the Job

The average full-time employee will easily spend eight hours on the job each working day, during which they sometimes work together intensively with others. That’s why it’s necessary for them to engage in interpersonal relationships.

The decisions that need to be made can’t be made by one person. The quality of the relationships within an organisation says a lot about its culture, too. A positive culture is characterised by cheerful employees who get along well.

A positive corporate culture usually has a positive influence on business results, but more is required. A negative culture will manifest in the form of many conflicts and useless discussions.

There are various ways of improving and stimulating interpersonal relationships within an organisation. First of all, it’s important to communicate clearly and effectively.

Do not get sidetracked by matters that are largely or wholly irrelevant. Communicating should also happen regularly, not just when it’s absolutely necessary. Little things matter too, such as saying good morning and wishing each other a good weekend. These things are usually not included in an interpersonal relationship model.

Phases in interpersonal relationships

It takes a lot of time for a relationship to grow and be ready to endure the effects of time and hardship. At the start of a relationship, several things may happen. In case of the development of co-worker relationships, the order of the sequence may differ slightly.

Phase 1

In the first phase, two people get to know each other. Knowing each other is a requirement for any relationship, whatever its form. People get to know each other through mutual friends, social gatherings, employers, and in other ways.

Phase 2

This is the phase in interpersonal relationships where we start talking about an actual relationship. In this phase, the bond between two people grows, and they are no longer strangers to each other. Mutual trust, too, begins to increase.

Phase 3

The third phase is also known as the continuity phase. This phase is where the foundation for the future is usually laid by engaging in permanent commitments. Trust and transparency are important for keeping the relationship healthy.

Phase 4

In the fourth phase of the interpersonal relationship model, the relationship with the other deteriorates. Not all relationships pass through this phase. It is, in effect, a period in which the relationship is tested.

In this phase, the reasons for failure are often found in a lack of compatibility, trust, love, or care. This often leads to serious misunderstandings and problems in the relationship. Some, if they feel things are not working out, decide to end the relationship.

Whether it’s a co-worker relationship or a romantic relationship, ending a relationship is often a drastic event for both parties. Often, however, the relationship can be salvaged. Compromises are an important part of that.

Phase 5

In the last phase, the end of the relationship is final. Reasons for a definitive separation may range from death to estrangement or other problems.

Tips for Positive Interpersonal Relationships on the Job

As can be read in Social Exchange Theory, everyone in a relationship is looking for something that’s beneficial to themselves, without having to give up something in exchange for it.

That principle is at work within the organisation as well. It enables employees to help each other. It’s also important that they get along well for a positive and productive company culture. Some tips for effective and good interpersonal relationships on the job are explained below.

Keep work and private life separate

People do not behave the same way at work as they do at home. Someone may come across as very friendly and easy-going at work, yet be impossible at home. An important part of a job is making a professional impression.

Employees who misbehave are punished and certainly not tolerated. Behaviour towards others should be professional as well. A co-worker can also become a friend over time. It is important, however, to draw a line. Too much friendship may be harmful to a professional climate and negatively influence relationships with other employees. In this case, the relationship will fail in phase 3 or 4 of the interpersonal relationship model with phases.

Stay out of other people’s business

Live and let live. Managers should enable each employee to keep working independently. Various methods are used in order to make sure tasks don’t overlap. If tasks do overlap, that means employees will interfere in each other’s work. This often doesn’t go over well in practice. It’s better for everyone to stick to their own affairs, unless the opposite is desirable.

Give the other enough space

In addition to the previous tip: give each other enough space on the job. After all, people need a certain amount of personal space in order to function properly. It’s important that this space be respected. This also includes eavesdropping on conversations or reading other people’s letters or emails. Such practices almost always end in conflicts and serious dissatisfaction in employees.

Don’t participate in gossip or spreading lies

An open, honest, and motivating communication style is essential for the atmosphere within the organisation. This is what the interpersonal relationship model shows, too. For that reason, only spread correct information about company affairs, but also about co-workers and other people. If gossip is doing the rounds within the organisation, discuss it with the person concerned and not with others. Definitely read the story of Socrates and the three sieves below.

Socrates and the three sieves

The Greek philosopher Socrates, too, saw the necessity of an honest and open communication style. Long ago, he was walking through the streets of Athens, when suddenly a man came walking up to him, gesticulating frantically. ‘Socrates! I have to tell you something I heard about a friend of yours.’

‘Wait a second,’ said Socrates. ‘Before you tell me what it is that you heard, have you sieved the story through the three sieves?’ ‘The three sieves?’ the man asks Socrates, confused. ‘Yes,’ he responds. ‘Let’s try.’

‘The first sieve is the sieve of truth. Have you checked whether the story you want to tell me is true?’ ‘No,’ the man says. ‘I heard it on the street and…’

‘All right!’ says Socrates. ‘In that case, I’m sure you’ve run it through the sieve of goodness? Is it something good that want to tell me about my friend?’ ‘No,’ the man answers. ‘No, it’s not.’

‘All right,’ says Socrates. ‘Let’s then use the third sieve. Is it necessary that I should be told this news? Is my friend gravely ill?’ ‘No,’ the man answers. ‘It’s not necessary.’

‘Well then,’ said Socrates. ‘If the story you want to tell me is neither true, nor good, nor necessary, then forget it and don’t bother me with it any more.’

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Now it’s your turn

What do you think? Do you recognise the explanation about the interpersonal relationship model? Could you use this model to manage your relationships? What do you think are the pros and cons of a relationship model? Do you have any tips or additional comments?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Altman, I., & Taylor, D. A. (1973). Social penetration: The development of interpersonal relationships. Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
  2. Knapp, M. L., Vangelisti, A. L., & Caughlin, J. P. (2005). Interpersonal communication and human relationships.
  3. Rogers, C. R. (1959). A theory of therapy, personality, and interpersonal relationships: As developed in the client-centered framework (Vol. 3, pp. 184-256). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  4. Wills, T. A. (1985). Supportive functions of interpersonal relationships.

How to cite this article:
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Published on: 09/23/2019 | Last update: 03/25/2022

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Ben Janse
Article by:

Ben Janse

Ben Janse is a young professional working at ToolsHero as Content Manager. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business School where he focusses on analyzing and developing management models. Thanks to his theoretical and practical knowledge, he knows how to distinguish main- and side issues and to make the essence of each article clearly visible.


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