An average person works 90,000 hours in a lifetime. Imagine spending 90,000 hours of your precious life surrounded by people who make you feel miserable in today’s overworked, under-appreciated, and sleep-deprived corporate culture. If you have ever worked a day in your life, you would know this when it comes to work. The one thing that would determine whether or not your workplace experience is a positive one, has a lot to do with the kind of relationships that you have with your colleagues.

Assuming now you’re at work and are reading this article, pause for a while and look up briefly. Did you make eye-contact with someone from across the table? How did your colleague react to your unexpected eye-contact? (Mine just asked me, ‘Yea?’) Not that that is a mark of a healthy working relationship, but just that seemingly insignificant exchange has demonstrated to me three things:

  1. I had my colleague’s attention, even though I did not explicitly ask for it
  2. He asked, “Yea?”, which implied that he wondered if there was anything I needed or wanted to say
  3. He asked it with a smile

Now, compare that with three opposite situations.

  1. I explicitly asked for attention, and did not receive any
  2. My colleague didn’t care if I needed anything. Or, asked ‘What?’ instead of ‘Yea?’
  3. He asked it without a trace of a smile

I don’t know about you, but I’m sure glad that it wasn’t the latter situation for me. Translate this simple exchange into everyday work situations with more substantial conversations, like brainstorming for ideas or discussing a project. If colleagues treated one another with the same camaraderie like in the former situation, chances are, people are going to be happier at work. And this will ultimately leads to higher productivity.

To put it in a clearer manner, below is a table of examples that illustrates what a good, healthy working relationship is, and is not.

A good working relationship is…A good working relationship is NOT…
  • Having a high level of trust in your colleagues
  • Assuming, speculating, and being wary of your colleagues
  • Having mutual respect for one another’s values, beliefs, and opinions that results in collective insight
  • Disregarding differing perspectives or having a ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ attitude
  • Being mindful of how your words and actions can affect others
  • Being careless with your words, which could bring down the team morale or being taken as personal attack
  • Not simply tolerating, but accepting and welcoming diversity
  • Having a narrow view on things and a preference for sameness or familiarity
  • Having open, honest communication
  • Having limited or restricted communication that could lead to miscommunication

As with most things in life, it starts with you. Start by developing your people skills such as empathy, communication and the ability to listen. Be aware of the kind of impact that your words and actions leave on others.

It is also important to identify your relationship needs – what you need from others, and what do others need from you. Are they balanced? The word ‘need’ might suggest that the relationship is not genuine, but that is the fact of the matter. Everyone in an organisation provides different types of support – instrumental (e.g. helping to replace the water cooler bottle), emotional (e.g. giving words of encouragement), and informational (e.g. teaching one how to use a certain software).

Be conscious of the types of support that you give to your colleagues, and in turn, appreciate the support that you receive from them. Everyone wants to feel appreciated for their contribution. Each time you recognise their contribution, don’t skimp on the compliments (but don’t overdo it either, you wouldn’t want it to be perceived as bootlicking). Giving credit where it is due creates a healthy respect.

Make a conscious effort to give time to build these relationships. Even if it is not a full-fledged team building event, just spending 5-10 minutes in casual conversation everyday can help improve the bonds between you and your colleagues because ultimately, it’s the little things that matter. Especially if it’s done face to face.

While you’re engaging in a conversation, make sure that you are doing active listening, and not just hearing. Listen and seek to understand, not listen to reply. The active listening process consists of four parts: Concentrate, understand, respond, remember. Only then will you be able to avoid unnecessary miscommunication.

Take note that while it is good to be friendly, learn to manage your boundaries by maintaining a certain level of professionalism, especially in terms of work. Also, avoid becoming cliquish, which could be toxic and defeats the purpose of creating an inclusive community within the workplace. That said, avoid gossipping at all costs. Spread only positive vibes.

You will come to realise that you often can’t be friends with someone you can’t work with, but you can work with someone you can’t be friends with, as long as each party has good work ethics. Even if you do not have a great personal chemistry, you can still make your professional relationship workable. Fostering a healthy working relationship takes work, and ensuring that the relationship is stable, simply takes continuous work. Start making whatever’s left of your 90,000 hours count today.

To find out how we can help your team build better working relationships, please contact our Happiness Ambassador at +65 6743 3077 or email us at [email protected]!

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