If you’re looking for advice on how to deal with a terrible co-worker—one who’s arrogant, nosy, rude, or otherwise awful to work with—there’s plenty of advice out there for you (just look here, here, and here).
But how do you make sure that annoying co-worker isn’t you? That you’re not the one making your teammates’ work harder, butting into everyone’s business, and, in general, annoying your team in every way possible?
It’s easy: Simply become everyone’s favorite co-worker instead.
If you can follow these basic tips, you’ll won’t only keep your name off the “worst co-worker ever” list—you’ll earn yourself a spot among the absolute favorites.
1. Do What You Say You’re Going to Do
Nothing will endear you to your co-workers quicker than establishing a reputation of follow-through. By doing what you say you’re going to do—whether that means completing an assignment ahead of the deadline, emailing the client you said you would, or creating the report you promised to generate—your team will quickly learn they can count on you and that you value helping the entire team succeed.
(And as a bonus, they’ll likely be more willing to put forth the effort to help you out, too.)
2. Give Positive Feedback—and Not Just When You Want Something
Everyone likes to hear they’re doing a good job. Too often, however, employees leave it up to the boss to dole out that praise to their teammates—or only use it as a complimentary precursor to a request (e.g., “Hey, you did a great job on that PowerPoint. By the way, can you cover my client meeting this afternoon?”).
Instead, be generous with your positive feedback. Let a teammate know you enjoyed the blog she wrote, or comment that a co-worker’s presentation was engaging and upbeat. Don’t lay it on so thick that your team questions the authenticity of your sentiments—simply be genuine. When you recognize a job well done, follow these tips and speak up!
3. Treat Others’ Time Like Your Own
When you’re on a tight deadline, you want to be able to work without interruption. And at the end of the workday, you’d like to be able to leave the office at a decent hour without getting pulled into a last-minute request. In short, you want others to respect your time—so in turn, you should respect theirs.
That means completing your portion of the assignment with ample time for your co-worker to do his or hers, showing up for meetings on time, limiting the urgent requests to true emergencies, and responding to emails and messages within a reasonable time frame.
Your teammates will immediately recognize—and appreciate—that you don’t take them and their time for granted.
4. Don’t Add to the Stress
Email is at the center of almost every job these days, and simply getting through the massive influx of messages each day is stressful enough.
So, your co-workers certainly won’t appreciate it if you’re flooding their inboxes with emails that are so vague or rambling that they require a string of follow-ups to figure out what, exactly, you’re trying to say.
To make sure your emails are concise and provide appropriate context for the message, brush up on these 23 unwritten email rules.
5. Own Up to Your Mistakes
No one wants to get in trouble at work, but there’s something much more admirable about someone who can gracefully admit to his or her mistakes than someone who continually tries to pass the buck.
It may seem counterintuitive, but by stepping up and saying, “That was my fault, and I’m going to fix it,” rather than, “It wouldn’t have been an issue if Robert did his job,” you’ll gain the respect of your team—especially if you follow through and do fix it (and then figure out how to avoid that mistake in the future).
6. Know When to Back Off
Chatting with your co-workers is a normal part of office life. Who doesn’t like to spend Monday morning chatting about what everyone did over the weekend? Actually, the answer is not everyone.
If you want to stay in your co-workers’ good graces, learn to be observant enough to notice when a colleague wants to get down to work, rather than grit his or her teeth through your next rambling story about what happened at happy hour last night.
Is your co-worker nodding silently while reaching for her earbuds? Turning his body back to his computer and away from you? Responding with a tight-lipped “Mmmhmm?” Take the cue and save your stories for another time or colleague.
7. Get Involved
Of course, knowing when to hold back the chatter doesn’t mean you can’t be involved in the lives of your co-workers. In fact, you absolutely should.
You don’t have to be best friends with everyone on your team, but you can build some of the strongest bonds by developing personal relationships with your teammates.
So go out to an occasional lunch with them, meet them for happy hour, or accept their follow request and interact with them on Twitter. Share a little bit of your personal life, and ask questions about your co-workers’ lives. Demonstrating that you care about your teammates beyond their ability to set up an Excel formula will earn you friends and loyalty.
In the end, it comes down to common sense. Be respectful, hard-working, and fun to be around, and you’ll easily earn favorite status among your team.
And if all else fails, bring donuts. Everyone loves the co-worker who brings donuts.