Design Better Professional Relationships

We under invest in relationship infrastructures.

– Alla Zollers

I enjoyed a great talk from Alla Zollers, a UX Consultant who helps companies, teams and individuals achieve greater clarity, meaning, performance and success. “We spend 90% of time communicating and building relationships in our jobs”, said Alla. And I cannot agree more.

It sounds very challenging that we deal with people possessing vastly different personalities at work. It’s possible that we meet people that are perfectionists (make it perfect, or I don’t want to do it at all), controllers (you must follow whatever I say), pleasers (I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feeling), hyper-achievers (I must be the best and most efficient at what I do)…  It’s not easy, really.

We can be very happy if we feel fulfilling every day with great and supportive colleagues, or get frustrated if we cannot accomplish something because of poor communication or collaboration. If we cannot avoid interacting with certain types of people, we may want to step out of our own ways and think about how to make our professional relationships better and healthier.

How to design better professional relationships? As mentioned in Alla’s slides, we need to create a safe and courage space for communication, establish trust and help each other how to work together effectively. For example, we can start conversations like this:

Mary: Hey Tim, do you want to go across street and grab lunch together today?

Tim: Sure, let’s go.

Mary: Great! (walking) I am wondering… we have just started working together, and I think it’s great if we can know more about each other.

Tim: Good idea. Go ahead.

Mary: Time is very important to me, and sometimes if I need to focus on something, I will have to block my calendar for a long period of time, and I don’t like others to interrupt me during this time… Is this ok with you?

Tim: Of course, sometimes I do this too, it’s easier to concentrate when nobody’s around.

Mary: Thank you, I just want to see what does and what does not work for us. What about you? Do you have anything you would like me to know?

Tim: Yea. You may have noticed that I look sullen sometimes at work, but it’s not true.. It may be because I focus so hard on getting the best results that, that I feel stressed. I know it may have a negative impact on others.. would you mind grabbing me for a quick chat if you ever see me like that? Just remind me, because I don’t like people to see me frown, which may make them unhappy.

Mary: Not a problem! I’ll be happy to do that for you.

Tim: I’m happy that you called me for lunch, so we can know each other more.

Mary: You’re welcome! It’s all good if we are open to each other.


The goal for this kind of conversation is to open the door to each other; it does not have to be perfect. And it’s better to be in-person, face-to-face. Don’t use email, IMs for this – it will not work well.

Time to have the determination to design better professional relationships everyone, action!

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