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Given the amount of time you'll spend with coworkers over the course of your lifetime, it's fairly important to get along with them. However, this can sometimes be easier said than done. Regardless of what type of office you're in, these seven tips will help you get along with your coworkers and improve your workplace relationships.
It's human nature to like when others are interested in us. With this in mind, being genuinely interested in your coworkers' lives can go a long way towards building a good relationship. Small gestures like asking your coworkers about their weekends, remembering their spouses' and family members' names and asking about their interests are all great ways to engage with your coworkers as people. This is a great way to help build your relationship. By demonstrating interest in your coworkers' lives, you demonstrate your regard for them as people (with that said, it's also important to not be nosy).
Even if you and your coworkers become good friends, it's worth keeping in mind that certain topics — such as sex, politics and religion — can lead to extremely heated, uncomfortable or downright embarrassing conversations. With this in mind, it may be wise to avoid discussing these topics with your coworkers. A notable exception to this is, of course, if you work in a field directly related to these topics.
Conducting yourself with appropriate office manners will keep you from getting your coworkers' hackles up based on poor behavior. Refraining from taking personal calls at your desk, retreating to a phone booth or conference room for calls if possible, saying "please" and "thank you" when asking for and receiving coworkers' help and being judicious in your use of "reply all" will all help ensure you don't get singled out as the office irritant.
Your good manners should also extend to lunchtime and company functions, such as happy hours. When eating with your coworkers, chew with your mouth closed, try to stay off your phone (unless necessary for work), treat waitstaff well and don't hog shared appetizers. At happy hours, keep an eye on your alcohol consumption to avoid making a scene and, as at meals, don't hog shared foods.
No one likes a Debbie Downer — so try to avoid being one. Even if you aren't feeling particularly upbeat when you head to the office, try to avoid taking your bad mood to work with you. Maintaining a positive outlook, smiling and being a positive force in the office will draw others to you and help you both build and maintain office relationships.
If you're really feeling down at the office, employ coping strategies that don't affect your interactions with others, such as going for a walk, listening to music on your headphones and giving yourself a mental pep talk.
While it may be tempting to get involved in and discuss office drama, it's important to remember that your workplace isn't a high school classroom. Staying above the fray of petty office drama and refusing to participate in gossip and badmouthing will demonstrate your trustworthiness and integrity to coworkers.
This one is a bit of a balancing act: on the one hand, you should share information about yourself with coworkers so you don't come off as cold or disinterested. On the other, you also want to make sure not to overshare personal details (see #2 above for some topics you should avoid). Additionally, be sure not to chatter away too much at the expense of your own and coworkers' productivity — while your coworkers might want to know how your weekend was, they probably don't need an hour-by-hour recounting.
Nothing kills a burgeoning friendship between coworkers like flakiness. If you fail to pull your weight as a member of a team at work, people will take note of it — and they'll likely avoid associating with you. The resentment that they may feel about your poor work performance will likely overshadow any other relationship they could strike up with you.
Aside from the fact that it's nice to have friends in general, having a good relationship with your coworkers will help you work together more effectively. When you and your coworkers are friendly, you're also more likely to have each others' backs, pitch in to help each other when needed and be happier at work — all of which is good for you as individuals and as a team.
As anyone who's been in this situation can tell you, an office without any friends can be a lonely and isolating place. Making friends with your coworkers — or at least ensuring that you have collegial relationships with them — will help make your work life happier and more fulfilling.
If you find yourself in a situation where you just can't seem to establish a good relationship with a coworker, you may find a few key strategies for establishing common ground to be useful. Establishing common goals and emphasizing that you're both interested in performing your jobs well is one potential strategy. Communicating and seeking to clear the air between you is another potentially useful strategy. Asking questions to help you understand your coworker's point of view is yet another angle you could try. However, should all else fail, you should also bear in mind that just as is the case elsewhere, you can't always make everyone love you.
Lorelei Yang is a New York-based consultant and freelance writer/researcher. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.