When you’ve worked in enough companies (both big and small), you learn how to recognize which employees are seriously committed to the job and which ones will be moving on soon enough.
The “gold star” employees can be spotted by their ability to work in harmony with their co-workers. They interact in a respectful and professional manner that follows certain characteristics. This only helps a business succeed because employees interacting positively with each other set the tone for an organization.
Recently, the development of employee morale has been an even greater theme among company management. Encouraging exercise through fun contests or charity walk-a-thons, company social outings, and other sorts of mood enhancing activities are all ways to build comradery.
However, you don’t always have to do something extravagant. Often times best way is a simple way. So here’s a list of steps to build and maintain better professional relationships at work.
1) Show Common Courtesy
This seems obvious, but depending on where you work, basic manners can be not so easy to come by. It can be more than a bit unsettling to say “hi” to a coworker only to get a blank stare back.
No, you don’t have to bounce around the office all smiles all the time, but a basic exchange of greetings is a good first step to developing good workplace relations.
Address people by name, make good eye contact. These are the fundamentals to creating a pleasant office atmosphere. Again, you don’t have to be a social butterfly or spend an hour chatting over a cup of coffee – just show decent social skills.
Remember, working in an office is very similar to living with roommates. Don’t be surly or gossipy, clean up after yourself in the break room, and don’t pop your gum all day – you’ll be fine.
2) Be An Effective Communicator
Determine the means of communication (phone, email, instant messaging, face-to-face) that particular coworkers you interact with preferring the most.
Personally, I’ve found most like using email. But even courteous emailing is a bit of an art. Here’s a solid email strategy to follow:
1. Actually, put a helpful subject in the subject line (Ex. “question regarding overtime pay” and not “question”). Also, you want your email to be on-topic and as concise as possible.
2. Don’t include coworkers in emails about meetings who don’t have to be present; this way your emails won’t be seen as annoying spam.
3. Don’t bring coworkers into an email conversation without telling them why. Provide an explanation without just CCing them. For example, you could say, “Tom, I’m bringing you in on this because you’re an out-of-the-box thinker and I want some creativity on this one.”
4. Don’t hit reply if you want to get a new conversation going unless it’s connected to the present topic.
Occasionally we don’t get what we’re expecting from our coworkers. Voicemails and emails can go unanswered. But count to three before firing off an angry email. There’s a good chance you ‘ll be better off politely inquiring about an issue. They simply might have been too busy to respond and it’s possible they haven’t even read or heard your message yet.
So unless you’ve got a real reason to think you’re being blown off, take a deep breath and give the benefit of the doubt.
Side note: if you are dealing with a coworker with an attitude, it’s wise to first approach your manager before confronting anyone.
3) Respect Your Coworkers’ Time
Whether you need help from HR, IT, sales, or management, unless you’re dealing with a real emergency, don’t hover or nag someone you’re waiting on. Let them finish whatever they’re doing without feeling the pressure of cutting off who or what they’re dealing with at that moment.
On top of that, don’t make requests in the hall, breakroom, restroom, or outside the office. There needs to be a distinct line between people’s personal life and work life that’s respected.
4) Try To Answer Your Own Questions
Most people don’t mind answering questions, what gets annoying though is when the questions could be easily answered by the person asking them.
If you need a hand with something or have a question, first try to either get the information yourself or see if you can do the task on your own. Just making the attempt will help earn you respect.
Of course, just how you’d seek out a professional to avoid mistakes in business writing, certain office requests should only be performed by the professionals. If your computer suddenly crashes, don’t spend hours trying to fix it – that’s what IT is for and you don’t want to make things worse by messing around on their turf.
5) Be Careful With Social Media
The rules for mingling with co-workers through social media are essentially the same as they are in real life.
Don’t be unprofessional and don’t get involved in professionally questionable relationships.
Avoid posting controversial subject matter and don’t share private information about any coworkers or the company.
A good rule of thumb is to pretend your company’s president is looking over your shoulder and behave accordingly.
Your top priority is your job and you don’t want to do anything to embarrass yourself or the company. In fact, a good idea is to restrict your social media interactions to a professional-focused site like LinkedIn and keep Facebook for your outside-of-work friends.
6) Keep It Close To the Vest
Be professional and courteous with everyone. The poison of office politics can sometimes be inflicted into your day no matter what you do, but the more you can keep yourself out of it, the better off you’ll be.
Bad blood can develop quickly and you never know when something’s going to come back to haunt you. So don’t gripe about or make fun of anyone, this includes through instant messaging, texts, or good old fashioned whispering.
Offices are dynamic places. The guy you hired could get promoted over you one day or your old manager who you never thought you’d see again could be brought back. Stuff happens in office-life and keeping things friendly (or at least neutral) is the best way to go.
7) Don’t Complain About Your Job at Your Job
We’ve all got to vent sometimes. The key is to only do it far away from the office to someone who has nothing to do with your office. Simply put, keep it away from the company.
Griping at work – while you’re being paid – comes across as playing the victim and will even turn off people who understanding where you’re coming from. If you can take proactive action, go for it. If not, handle the issue in a most constructive and healthy way as possible.
8) Be Welcoming
Be the one who helps new hires feel good. Don’t be part of the experienced click that looks down on the newbies. We’ve all had to go through those first-day jitters, and as I mentioned above, that new guy or girl could be your boss in 5 years. This doesn’t mean to be conniving or manipulative, but just view every role in your company as deserving of respect and you can do a lot for yourself by being the person who offers it.
9) Follow Up
This is an easy one that can really benefit you. Once you complete a given task with or for someone, send out an email a day or two later checking that everything worked out. Doing this shows who you’re working with/for that, you care about the results and helps to solidify working relationships.
The strategies above might just seem like common sense, but they’re highly valuable towards building and maintain smooth working relationships between you and your coworkers. A happy office is a productive office, and the good feelings you get from improving your work life will carry over into your personal life as well.
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- 9 Strategies for Building Better Professional Relationships at Work - January 6, 2017