When I was younger, I watched a lot of television that made me think my career would be nothing but a competition against my future colleagues. We’d all fight for pay raises, promotions, and the right to be considered the apple of our boss’ eye.
However, when I started my career, I quickly realized that was not the case. If anything, not only were my co-workers incredibly friendly for the most part, but they also had a lot of wisdom to share with me. So, while it might seem uncomfortable to ask the people you work with for insights, here are a few things you should feel totally empowered to ask your colleagues.
1. Can You Show Me How to Do This?
You’re on the same level as quite a few of your colleagues on your team, so there couldn’t possibly be anything that one of them knows that you don’t understand, right? Well, if this is something you believe, you are ridiculous.
Your co-workers might be in the same salary range, but you all bring different things to the table. Recently, I asked someone I work with to walk me through Google Analytics. And not long after that, she was promoted. You might be thinking, “Rich, you were probably so jealous when that happened.”
And sure, I’d like to be where she is at some point, but here’s the thing—I’ll never get there unless I ask people like her for help sometimes. So, if you’re afraid of asking your colleagues for a hand every now and again, you’re only stunting your own career growth.
2. Do You Want to Grab Lunch?
This might sound basic but think about all those times when you thought, “Ugh, I’m so swamped. I’ll just grab something and eat at my desk.” Early in my career, I did this almost every day. And while I took some time to surf the internet while I ate, I was missing out on getting to know my teammates.
At first, this didn’t seem like such a bad thing, especially since so many other people were doing the same thing. But eventually, a few of us started grabbing lunch on a regular basis, and I learned something—my co-workers were fun to hang out with, even outside the office. In fact, some of them are still close friends.
So, as scary as it might seem to step out of your comfort zone and ask a few people to hang during your lunch break, take a risk and see if someone on your team is up for getting away from the office for a few minutes for a meal.
3. How Do You Unplug When You’re Not Here?
If you’re anything like me, there are times when you’re awful at leaving work at work. Emails start piling up on weekends, and you just can’t help but look. But take a closer peek at all the “work” that’s piling up when you’re not at your desk.
I’m willing to bet a lot of it isn’t from the people on your team. So, if you’re feeling unsure about how to unplug from your job, ask how they do it. Do they set aside time on weekends to look through their inbox, or are they cool as ice about the whole thing? Do they get back to your boss right away, or do they want until Monday morning because they know she doesn’t care about immediate responses?
Do they even have work applications installed on their phones? There’s no way for you to know if you don’t ask. And if you’re afraid of making your team think you're lazy, don’t worry—they’re most likely wondering how you’re trying (and sometimes failing) at having a healthy work-life balance, too.
Navigating relationships between you and your colleagues is undeniably tricky. You don’t want to sound incompetent or lazy, and you absolutely don’t want to do anything that would disrupt your (or their) normal workflow. However, the truth is that you spend more time with the people you work with than, well, just about anyone else. And because of that, it’s important to set aside any preconceived notions you have about the questions you can and cannot ask your teammates. Not only might you be missing out on information you didn’t have previously, but you’re probably also missing out on getting to know some pretty amazing people, too.
Photo of co-workers courtesy of Izabela Habur/Getty Images.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy or follow his blog.More from this Author