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Personal vs Professional Relationships: What Roles Do You Play at Work?

Most, if not all of us know the importance of a good, working relationship, and hopefully a lot of us are also making a conscious effort to maintain a good working relationship with others. But have you ever analysed the types of work relationships that you have? If you haven’t, well, now is a good time to.

Understanding the types of relationships that exist will give you an insight to the kind of support that you give to others, and vice versa. This will no doubt improve the relationships that you have, and would help in creating a more cohesive community within your organisation.

Let’s start with the generic term – co-worker. Technically, anyone you work with would be a co-worker, even though the term usually refers to someone who is of the same level as you in the company hierarchy. In today’s context, however, with more and more company cultures embracing the idea of a team with everyone being a teamplayer and having equal importance, the term co-worker has become more universal.

Now, let’s narrow it down to the two main types of work relationships – personal and professional. Personal relationships are those whose biggest role is in social support, amongst other types of support like informational or instrumental. They are the ones that contribute most to your overall job satisfaction. Professional relationships are those that only exist because of your job – they usually help you get your work done, or could advance your career.

Of course, these two categories could also overlap. In fact, the best kind of work relationships are those that fall in both categories as they make work fun and productive. Below, we’ll break it down further to the specific types of relationships.

A) PERSONAL

Work friends
They are the ones you go to lunch with, sit with during meetings and gatherings, or occasionally hang out with outside of work. The friendship is likely maintained out of sheer proximity of working at the same place, and may not sustain if one leaves the company.

Office spouse
Your go-to person in any work situation. Colleagues may see you two as besties, or even speculate if the bond runs deeper than friendship. If both of your job scopes involve traveling, the two of you are likely to be traveling buddies. When you have a work predicament, he or she is your corporate confidante as you know that they have your best interest at heart.

Life friends
The most telling sign is that when one of you leaves the company, you know you would still be friends. They (or more likely, he or she) are one of the few friends that are included in the closest circle of friends that you have. Working with them is just a bonus.

B) PROFESSIONAL

Team member
As the name suggests, team members are colleagues who are on the same team as you – be it the team that you work with on a daily basis, a committee that you are a part of, or just for a one-off project. They are the ones that you work with the most, and the better your relationship with them, the greater things the things accomplished as a team.

Manager/Direct report
You are basically the in-between: Manager — You — Direct Report. As much as the relationship with your manager is vital, you ultimately can’t choose your boss and as long as there is mutual understanding, respect, and common values, consider yourself lucky. As for the Direct Reports, how you visualise your ideal manager, is how you should be with them. When the goals of the manager’s, yours, and the direct report’s are in line, the organisation will succeed.

Mentor/Mentee
Your mentor is one who advises you, motivates you, and reprimands you if need be. They can be your worst critic (beside yourself, of course), but will no doubt propel you in your career and possibly in life. They have the wisdom and the ways to guide you along. Above all, they inspire you not to be like them, but to be the best version of yourself. Likewise, you play the same role to your mentee.

The type of relationship and the support it gives often go hand-in-hand, but is not necessarily in the most obvious sense. The roles often overlap as relationships are not set in stone, structured or one-dimensional. That said, knowing that these types exist would help you in recognising, building, or improving your current relationships and strengthen the bonds.

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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