I feel comfortable saying that most of us care about being a good friend. Not only because we have a heart, but because we know that when people like and respect us, they stand by us when we need them most.
But we probably never think about whether or not we’re good co-workers. And no, I’m not talking about bringing in cookies on your colleague’s birthday or throwing a compliment their way after a presentation. Instead, I’m talking about going the extra mile.
Now, before you decide you don’t care about being liked by your teammates, think again. As Muse Senior Editor Stacey Lastoe writes in an article about the importance of having work friends, “[H]aving any friends means you’re likely to be happier at work, and if you’re happy, you’re engaged, and when you’re engaged, you produce better work. You open yourself up to challenges.”
So, how can you ensure you’re not the co-worker everyone dislikes? Ask yourself these seven questions:
1. Do They Regularly Turn to Me for Advice or Help?
Are you the go-to person for any tech-related problems? Does your deskmate lean on you for guidance when your boss is having a bad day? Do people come to you when they’re struggling to meet deadlines and could use a hand?
If you answered yes, good job! And if not, it could be for two reasons:
- Your habits—such as wearing headphones 24/7 or always complaining about your workload—make you seem unapproachable.
- You never offer to help, so people assume you wouldn’t want to.
Which should lead you to ask…
2. Do I Regularly Offer to Help?
When you offer your assistance, especially unsolicited, it opens the door for collaboration and trust. Plus, it’s typically reciprocal—people will be more inclined to help you out when they know you’re willing to do it for them.
3. Do I Factor Their Success Into My Own?
When you’re about to achieve something big, do you consider how someone else could benefit (or be hurt) from your success? Not saying you should always hand off your biggest wins to others, but maybe your actions can help both you and someone else boost their career.
For example, maybe asking for their expertise on a project will make it better and highlight their strengths to your boss. Or, including them in your next meeting will showcase you as a leader and help them start to build strong client relationships (that may help you in the long run, too).
As the saying (and 2009 hit by Boys Like Girls) goes, two is better than one.
4. Do I Consider Their Schedule When Making Decisions?
Leading up a group project? Before you send that team email, schedule that meeting, or sign off a deadline for a larger client project, do you check with your colleagues to make sure your plan works for everyone?
If not, consider running it by them before you commit to anything or start setting things in stone. While there will of course be times when you just have to move forward despite conflicts, there will be other times when you can be more flexible.
And sometimes that flexibility can make all the difference. After all, you never want to be the person who accidentally forces a colleague to cut their vacation short because you told the client everything would be ready for Monday.
5. Do I Celebrate Their Achievements Even When They’re Not My Own?
Jealousy tends to be the first emotion many people feel when someone else succeeds. But to be a good teammate, you have to move past that (and here are tips on how to do that). Because I bet you’d want someone to be happy for you if the roles were reversed.
So, celebrate your co-worker when they deserve to be celebrated (and especially if they’re too humble to do it themselves).
6. Do I Ask About Anything Other Than Work?
It’s so silly, but a simple “How are you doing?” or “How was your weekend?” goes a long way when it’s genuinely asked over and over again. You start to build a relationship not solely centered around work, and you show them you care about them as a human, not just a work partner.
If this question rings inauthentic to you (and it can if you had a boss ask it and never actually listen to your response), try “Watch anything good on TV lately?” or “How’s [problem they’ve brought up in the past] going?”
7. Do My Co-workers Do Any of the Above?
This is the easiest and most confidence-boosting question you should be asking when it comes to work relationships.
Do your teammates regularly congratulate you for your accomplishments? Do they include you in work—and non-work—conversations? Do they invite you to happy hour?
Chances are, if they do anything that’s respectful, affectionate, encouraging, or the list above, you’re doing alright in their—and our—eyes.
How’d you do? Let me know what you think makes for a good co-worker on Twitter @Alyslice!