Having cordial relationship with your coworkers is essential for one simple reason – you spend one-third of your life in the workplace and this means you do spend more time with your coworkers than with your own spouse, family members, friends and everyone or anything that matters to you. For those of you who work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, you can calculate and see the over 1,000 hours you spend with your coworkers each year.
This should make building a healthy relationship a top priority when it comes to the people you work with. Will it not be life draining to spend this long period of your time at the workplace without being able to make your life on the job enjoyable? You were employed with these people for a common purpose and there is a lot you can learn from them just as they can from you. Your coexistence and collaboration with them to rake in the needed results for the business, company or organization should for that reason be key.
To understand what it means to be a coworker and not a peer or colleague, let us look at something indeed shared: A coworker is someone who works closely with you, typically in the same department or on the same team. A coworker may differ from a colleague, who can work in the same industry as you but not necessarily in the same workplace. Developing good relationships with your coworkers involves a certain level of professionalism and interpersonal skills which you can strengthen with daily practice.
Being a great coworker to others adds to a positive environment in the workplace. By adding to a collaborative workforce, you can strengthen your relationships with your coworkers and increase the overall productivity of your team. Some coworkers can even become friends outside of work if you find similar interests. You should always strive to be a great person to be around at work. Understanding your coworkers, their strengths and weaknesses, and how you can help them, will help you become a better coworker.
Do not forget that the way in which you interact with your team is one of the most important parts of your job. I always teach people during coaching sessions and speaking engagements for corporates the need to build and maintain good relationships at work. You see, just like no one chooses the type of family they want to be born in, no worker chooses the type of coworkers they want to work with.
When they are able to understand from that point of view, I now go with them step by step on how to carry themselves in a way that will create a harmonious atmosphere at the workplace. This relationship building process has saved a lot of situations and individuals, some who were even at the point of quitting their jobs. The right way of communication had and is always the key in keeping any relationship, whether personal or professional harmonious.
Here are 4 steps to establish yourself as a better coworker and contribute to a healthy work environment:
- ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE
Acknowledgement and gratitude are two things that every human being craves, no matter the position they find themselves on the leadership ladder. People who feel unacknowledged and unappreciated find it very difficult to go the extra mile as there is no motivation to continue doing more. Too often, we focus on what people are doing wrong. You can break that cycle and become a better coworker by starting to observe the minor acts of kindness that your coworkers take the time out of their day to do for you and express your gratitude for them. You will realize that though these acts may seem insignificant, they help make your job easier. So set triggers that will remind you to say ‘thank you’ to them for the great work they do, specifically highlighting their strengths or uniqueness in making things easier at the workplace. This show of gratitude should be done both on one-on-one basis and in the presence of others at team meetings or other organizational gatherings. Be sure to always pay your co-workers a sincere compliment when it is due on their achievements, whether it is personal or professional. And remember this very important advice: if someone incorrectly gives you credit and praise for what you know you did not do, quickly acknowledge your co-worker who does deserve that great compliment. That unselfish act of yours will be remembered.
- AVOID GOSSIP AT ALL COSTS
There is a simple principle: do to others what you will have them do for you. Gossip never ends well so avoid ever speaking poorly about someone to other coworkers. Since you would not want anyone talking about you behind your back, always try to return the favor. While you may be tempted to join in a juicy gossip, it is best to avoid them at all cost. Try deflecting and changing the topic every time instead of responding; when this keeps happening for some time, the gossipers will stop coming to you and move on. Engaging in gossip will make you untrustworthy, leaving coworkers nervous when it comes to what they can tell you. It is not only unethical and dangerous to engage in office gossip, but it can generate a messy situation. You will end up not being able to retain the trust and respect of your coworkers. How certain can they be that you will not end up sharing their details as you have spoken about others to them behind their backs? To be a better coworker, do your best to curb hurtful rumors instead of feeding into baseless gossip by keeping lines of communication open. The more transparent and honest the lines of communication is, the less room there will be for unfounded information.
- PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING
Active listening is one point that has recurred in most of the topics I write on because it is so key. Active listening must be practiced in every single aspect of your job and even in your personal life. We normally think active listening should be done only during meetings like stakeholder engagements, board meetings and so on. It is however important to also be an active listener when it comes to your coworkers because they are your team members. I know paying attention can be challenging sometimes when your mind is on a task whose deadline is fast approaching. Conversely, when you actively listen by giving eye contact, asking questions to clarify the information coming to you, nodding your head and contributing where necessary, your coworkers will feel acknowledged, respected, cared about and happy to be accepted as a team member. This is key to building trust and being a better coworker because of the genuineness of hearing and responding to them. It also shows respect for your coworkers and enhances relationship-building that thrives on respect and trust.
- PRACTICE GOOD OFFICE ETIQUTTE
It is important to get to work on time and be on time for any work engagement that you are part of. This shows respect for both your employer and coworkers’ time. You are part of a team and everyone has a role to play so if your approval or feedback is required for one of your coworkers to continue on a project, avoid making them wait. By being prompt, your answer will help them to proceed with their part of the process, showing your respect for them as well. Make it a habit to respond to emails and return missed calls within a reasonable timeframe. It becomes frustrating to your coworkers when you ignore phone messages, emails and missed calls because, it can make their work harder and also have a significant impact on your team’s ability to reach organization-wide goals. Always be mindful and use proper etiquette when emailing your coworkers. Use words like “please”, “kindly”, and “may I” when making requests. Try to make sure your coworkers feel they are a valued part of the team by responding to them in a timely manner. There is an exception here though: you do not have to respond to after work hours email if coworkers know you are not working. Your coworkers can contact you any time they can but they should understand that you will not be able to reply until the next workday. When it comes to out of work times, this response is totally acceptable.
There are a lot of advantages and benefits in being a better coworker, so work continuously at it if you are in the process, and do not allow any negative attitude from anyone deter you. You will grow much healthier, become more cheerful in performing your duties, and it will keep your environment positive. The good part is, just as bad energy is contagious, your good energy is contagious and will eventually cause your coworkers to reciprocate how you treat them, operating as your professional support system. This will result in your enjoyment in going to work and staying till it is time to go home a whole lot more!
Are you looking to understand yourself better and how to become a good coworker? Then grab a copy of my book, The Essentials of Image Leadership for yourself and your coworkers as a gift this Easter holiday.
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