A little good will goes a long way

Timothy Kolke
3 min readDec 13, 2022

This is a story about working with people and how creating a little bit of good will in the workplace makes working together so much better.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What do I mean by creating good will? I think it’s easiest to see in an example.

At work I came across a project that was being done by a colleague that I thought could benefit from taking a slightly different approach. I wanted to have a conversation about it to see if my idea was worth considering.

If this project had been owned by someone on my team, it would have been natural to raise the point with them. But given that it was owned by someone on another team and in another discipline I wanted to approach with care.

But here’s the thing, in this case I had a personal connection with the person I needed to speak with. We had taken the time to get to know each other and to show curiosity about our lives in previous conversations. It turns out that this is important for creating good will in the workplace.

So in this conversation with my colleague I was able to raise the issue in a context of good will. They knew it was coming from a place of care on my end with my intention being focused on improving effectiveness of the project. It turned out to be pretty easy to provide some critique. The conversation felt light. We were able to laugh together. And then we worked together to come up with some solutions. It was a productive and even enjoyable interaction.

The key here is that my colleague made the effort to understand where I was coming from. This takes work. We as humans are not always easy to understand. We have wacky ideas sometimes 😅.

The truth is that that we all have so much in common with each other and have the potential of being close. Yet we are also worlds apart. And if we are looking for differences there seems to be an infinite chasm between us.

Having good will helps us see the similarities rather than the differences. It helps us go outside of ourselves to see past our own perspectives.

So the fact that there was good will between my colleague and I made this a much easier and enjoyable interaction. Mission accomplished. we made the project better together.

Contrast this to when you try to communicate with someone where there is little or no good will. You will often hear things like this makes no sense. Or I don’t understand what you’re saying. Or worse, why don’t you stick to your job and I’ll stick to mine. In these cases, you are basically getting shut out. The individual is expressing that they are not willing to make an effort to understand you.

I think comments like these, that shut us out, are one of the best indications that there is a lack of good will.

And when you hear things like this it’s probably wise to do a little self-check. Have I invested anything in a connection with this person? Do they have any reason to trust me? If not, is there an opportunity to create some good will with this individual?

We need to put stuff in the piggy bank before we can withdraw. Withdrawls are things like critique and asking people to listen to your wacky ideas. Deposits are things like helping someone out, spending some quality time with them over a coffee and learning about their lives.

Give it a try. You may find that creating some good will goes a long way toward a more enjoyable workspace for you and your colleagues ❤️

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Timothy Kolke

Curious about design, research and humans / Design manager @ Workday