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4 minute read

Being a Better Colleague: Soft Skills to Improve Your Work Relationships

It’s important to work on being nice, despite high-pressure work environments. After all, we might spend more time with our co-workers than anyone else!

In the Great Singapore Rat Race many of us find ourselves in, the workplace can be a highly competitive and stressful environment. Operating in such a cauldron, it’s easy to step on other people’s toes, or turn into the ‘colleague from hell’ when we come off as too direct, abrasive or condescending.

In such a surrounding, it’s more important than ever in how we come across to our colleagues so as to maintain good working relationships with them. After all, we spend the better part of our day with them and it’s in our interest to be the best version of ourselves.

Research shows that having good relations at work can determine our job satisfaction and overall wellbeing. So the more effort we put into cultivating good relationships with our co-workers, the more productive we will feel in our professional life. Chances are, it will also help us grow our influence at work.

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So, how can we get better at becoming better co-workers? What are the things we should keep in mind and practice every day in order to build and maintain a healthy and positive work environment?

Giving off happy and encouraging vibes helps people around us feel more comfortable. It can be in the way we greet colleagues or the opinions we give of them.

Either way, it’s important to get into the habit of speaking well of others. Oftentimes, the information we share about someone else comes back to us — and this reflects on us as a person.

Being positive also means publicly celebrating the achievements of others. It doesn’t have to be over the top; it could just be a casual comment in a (virtual) meeting or an email to the team.

Showing appreciation to our peers for the contributions they make, big and small, not only makes them feel good but also inspires others to create a culture of support.

When we trust our colleagues, there is an unspoken bond that helps us work more effectively, knowing that someone has got our back and we’ve got theirs. But how do we build trust?

First and foremost, we need to be honest and supportive in the way we communicate. Tell the truth and not just say things others would want to hear. Communicate the facts while showing our support and understanding for co-workers, even when mistakes are made.

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Hwei Loke, head of marketing for a media company, believes that being supportive is a by-product of building trust. “When someone knows they can trust you, even if you do make a mistake, they know it is never intentional and that you’ve acted in the company’s or their best interest. Once that trust is established, people can work towards having a good relationship that is built on a core basis of mutual respect,” she said.

Nurul Rasheed, a senior manager with a PR agency, also feels that building trust with the people she works with is key to fostering good relations. “I think it’s important that a relationship is built on trust because we know that we will not throw each other under the bus.”

Read Also: 7 Qualities That’ll Make You Everyone’s Favourite Colleague

Checking in on our colleagues or our direct reports is also important in nurturing genuine connections. It helps create camaraderie and connection which is much needed in the new normal we find ourselves in.

Remote working can make people feel disconnected from one another. Just taking a few moments out of our day to connect with others and see how they’re doing doesn’t take much but it can have a huge impact.

Go deeper than just ‘Hi, how are you?’ Ask questions that aren’t just related to work but to their personal well-being. Keep the conversation light-hearted but also keep it real. Pay attention to their mood and empathise if a colleague is facing personal or professional challenges.

Actively taking time to acknowledge our colleagues helps create an atmosphere of psychological safety. It’s also invaluable for maintaining positivity and a sense of community.

“Regular check-ins are so important. Even just for 10 minutes per day to say hi and even to speak about what we are having for lunch,” Hwei Loke said.

Lissy Puno, a counselling psychologist and an advocate of Keynote Women Speakers, echoes the same sentiment. “Face-to-face interaction is ideal but during these times we try to establish the essentials of a meaningful relationship in the virtual world — connection, care and communication need to be transferred to the virtual world to help form relationships despite a lack of physical face-to-face contact,” she said.

There’s never a better time than now to be a better colleague and co-worker. We should never underestimate the power of good relationships!

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