For a lot of people, relationships with your co-workers are what get you through the workday. They’re the people you talk to, vent to, and collaborate with. You’re on the same team, and, ideally, you’re all on the same page.
But if you approach your relationship with your team the wrong way, you can seriously hinder the success of your individual career.
Just take these five common beliefs for example—while these thoughts seem completely understandable on the surface, they can actually hurt you in the long run.
Belief #1: “I Have to Do Things the Way They Do”
Especially when you’re new in a role, you look to your co-workers for an example of how to complete your responsibilities. If they use a certain program to complete a report, you’ll probably start using that program. If they consult a few go-to clients as sources for your marketing materials, you’ll probably start leaning on those clients, too.
And you know what? That’s a perfectly fine way to learn the ropes. The problem comes in when you assume that you’re solely bound to your co-workers’ particular methods and ideas, instead of branching out to try new things, pitching unique ideas, and taking some risks.
That’s the only way you’re going to produce anything above and beyond the rest of your team—and, ultimately, that’ll be how you demonstrate your worth to your boss and team.
Belief #2: “I Have to Stay on Their Good Side”
For a long time, when it came to my interactions with my co-workers, I never wanted to rock the boat. You work with these people every hour of every workday; wouldn’t a disagreement make it pretty hard to work together effectively? And so, when someone would pitch an idea or want to attack a project a certain way, I’d always nod along—even if I didn’t think it was the right approach.
But constantly keeping mum only stifles the creativity and innovation of your entire team. You need disagreement to spark better ideas. Plus, it gives you a chance to show your team and your boss that you offer real value to the department—rather than just a desire to appease everyone.
And the good news is, done the right way, you can disagree without ruining your work relationships.
Belief #3: “I Can Confide in Them About Anything”
It’s easy to become close with the person who sits two feet away from you for eight hours a day, 40+ hours a week. Over inside jokes and venting sessions, you really begin to trust the people you work with every day.
But no matter how close you are, there are certain subjects you shouldn’t broach with your co-workers. For example, if you’re thinking about leaving your current company, it may be tempting to ask your co-worker if she knows of any job openings or if she can glance at your resume to get it job-search ready. But you’re not going to be quite so pleased when she accidentally lets it slip to your boss that the dentist appointment you’re at is really a job interview.
You can probably trust your co-workers with a lot of things—but for the sake of your job and the future of your career, some things shouldn’t be shared.
Belief #4: “My Workday Should Mirror Theirs”
When you work in close proximity with your team, it’s easy to adopt their habits. That means if they work through lunch, you’ll probably be more inclined to work through lunch. You’ll aim to get into the office around the same time they do and leave when they finally pack up their things and head out.
In general, it’s not farfetched that you and your teammates will work similar hours. On the other hand, if you can finish your work more productively (read: in less time) than your team—or in a more productive way—you shouldn’t feel pressured to work just like your co-workers.
If you need to take a lunch break to be your most productive self, take it! If you get the bulk of your work done in the morning, talk to your boss about shifting your workday a little earlier. Or, if you’re just want to be a productivity machine, follow these tips to always leave the office on time. But you shouldn’t base your entire workday on theirs just because.
Belief #5: “They Only Get the Best Opportunities Because…”
Allison got the promotion because she’s the boss’ favorite? Mark got to go the national conference because he’s friends with the manager outside of the office? Kathy was chosen to give the presentation just because she’s been in the department the longest?
Sure, those things may be true—but more often, these assumptions stem from jealousy, and there’s actually a valid reason why your co-worker got a certain opportunity.
By making excuses or assumptions about why everyone else is getting the best opportunities, you may make yourself feel better temporarily—but it’s not helping you get any closer to deserving those opportunities yourself.
To stay on track for success, you should assume that to get the promotion, raise, or special opportunity, you need to work hard, perform well, and be the best—rather than worry about rumors or favoritism that may or may not be true.
While co-worker relationships are necessary and beneficial, you have to make sure you’re approaching them the right way—in a way that encourages success for both your team and your individual career.