There’s always one coworker in the office nobody wants to work with. They’re impatient, rude, arrogant.
You don’t want to be that guy.
You want to be the person everyone wants to work with.
When you have a reputation for being a team player, others will want to work with you, even when you make mistakes, or when you’re not the most talented person in the room.
Talent isn’t everything. Not if you don’t listen to others, or value their ideas, or gossip about people behind their backs.
Yes, we should produce quality work. That’s a given. And yes, you can be both kind and talented. All I’m saying is, we’re human, and your coworkers will give you the benefit of the doubt if you treat others well. The office jerk, on the other hand — well, it’s almost like everyone else is waiting for them to slip up.
I led a project at work, and I made a mistake. When I thought we wouldn’t make the deadline, I put pressure on my team to get the job done on a shorter (more stressful) timeline. I took responsibility for it, but I remember being warned that I couldn’t make the same mistake again, not if I didn’t want to become “that” coworker — the one nobody wants to work with.
On the one hand, it’s solid advice. If slip-ups become a habit, your coworkers will get sick of your excuses. But it wasn’t a habit for me. And I was grateful that my team had my back.
I’d worked hard to develop strong relationships with every single person in the office. My team stepped up to support me precisely because I’m not “that” coworker who takes advantage of others.
These are the traits I’ve admired in the coworkers I enjoyed working with most. And these principles have worked for me, too:
Be consistent. Be patient.
Exercise consistency in all things: Be consistent in the way you treat those around you. Have a consistent work ethic.
“Moodiness” has become an excuse for poor behavior. If you’re a “creative,” mood swings are acceptable — expected, even. But it’s not OK to be sugary sweet one day and then rude the next. It’s the golden rule, OK? Treat others the way you want to be treated. Don’t play favorites, especially in an office environment. Treat everyone with equal respect.
Show up and do the work; you’ll develop trust with your coworkers when you follow through and deliver on your promises. Sure, there are times you’ll fall behind, or something unexpected throws a wrench in things. This won’t ruin the rapport you’ve built with your coworkers. They’ll be more willing to extend grace. Likewise, do the same — have patience and be understanding.
Show a genuine interest in others’ work.
Don’t be the guy who shows interest only when asking for a favor. Favors are earned. When you develop a genuine interest in someone’s work, you build a strong foundation for future collaboration.
You’ll likely learn something new about this person. Maybe they have a unique talent that nobody else has tapped into. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could use their skills in an upcoming project?
It’s always a good idea to know what’s happening in the building, and what’s on tap. Be informed, understand what your team is working on, and be proud of their work!
Give praise where it’s due.
Everyone wants recognition. As a project manager at my recent job, it was essential for me to acknowledge others’ contributions and achievements. When people work hard, they deserve to be recognized. Deserve to, but often aren’t.
Giving praise isn’t about being extravagant or boastful (at least, it doesn’t have to be). Some people might feel embarrassed by this type of public display. Instead, it’s a simple acknowledgment, either individually (“hey, this is great work, I love this design”), or with a few well-placed words to the boss (“so-and-so came up with this creative idea”).
We all want to be noticed and recognized by the “higher-ups.” We want them to know that we do great work. Don’t do your job with the expectation of praise or recognition, because you’ll likely be disappointed. And that’s not what it’s about, anyway. But when you have an opportunity to shine the spotlight on a teammate, take it. When it comes to being a good coworker, spread the love — a win for one teammate is a win for all.
You want to be a person that makes others feel good about themselves. If you can do that, they’ll want to be around you, and they’ll want to work with you.
Sometimes it’s your “fault,” and sometimes it isn’t. But when you’re part of a team, you share in the responsibility for the wins and the losses. Don’t place blame. Focus on the problem and not the personalities involved.
How frustrating does it feel to work with people who want to blame you when things go wrong?
Be the coworker who’s willing to step up and take responsibility for your work and your actions. Identify solutions and work collaboratively to execute them.
Apologize when you’ve made a mistake. Be honest.
It’s difficult to admit you’ve messed up, and taking criticism in the workplace is hard. I’ve been there. But it happens to the best of us. When I made mistakes, I always felt better about being honest with my team, especially when my mistake impacted my coworkers somehow. The mature thing to do is to own up to it and apologize. In a work environment, it’s about being respectful of your team’s time and effort.
Apologies don’t have to be scary. There’s no need for a tearful confession or a long-winded explanation. Address the error and move on. Admitting to our mistakes makes us human. If it were the other way around, wouldn’t you rather your coworkers be honest with you?
Don’t take your team for granted; remember to thank people for their hard work. When we wrapped up a weeklong campaign, I sent a quick email to my teammates to share results and thank them for their work on the project. This is a really simple thing to do that often gets overlooked.
Don’t assume that your coworkers know how much you appreciate them.
If you receive positive feedback about a project, share it! Tell your coworkers that the boss said: “great job,” or the client loved their work. Always pass along the gratitude.
The goal is to foster a positive work environment and develop a reputation as a team player. If you have your coworkers’ backs, they’ll have yours. Your attitude will say more about you than your work.
Of course, it’s important to take our work seriously and to do our best. But business is about people, and a strong network will take you further.
“You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.” ~ Herb Kelleher
What reputation do you want to have among your coworkers? Whatever it may be now, you can change it. Be patient, consistent, genuine, encouraging, honest, and grateful. Be the person everyone wants to work with.
And that’s how to be a good coworker.