One good thing about having done a fair share of odd jobs is that it’s given me the opportunity to observe many different work environments. I’m happy to say I’ve managed to build lasting relationships in all of them and therefore always been able to move on with good reviews. Through the years I’ve come to realize that this quality – being a “people person”- might just be the thing which separates you from the next guy.
What then is it you should think about to avoid those relationship pitfalls at work? Here’s my highly subjective list. Feel free to add and comment!
Number One is to just ignore the chronic complainers. There will always be people around you who moan about everything, from cleaning the fridge to not having the right kind of paper in the copier… It’s up to you to decide what to do about these sourpusses. You can either let their endless tirades get to you – or simply flash them a kind smile and say “Really, imagine that!” and then just be on your way. Never agree with them – or disagree, for that matter. This will only lead to lengthy discussions about correct paper quality or something equally trivial – and they’ll know who to turn to next time they want to let of steam (which will probably happen in about 5 minutes).
Number Two in workplace survival is to beware of the backstabbers. Anybody who’s been part of a work community with more than 5 people knows this lot. They’re usually not very good at what they do, but they’re very good at spotting other people’s flaws – and pointing them out. Never to your face, but always to someone else – preferably someone higher than you in the ranks. The best way to deal with these is to make sure you do a good enough job to not be chosen as their target. If you don’t, they might end up burying you. Note: if the backstabber is your boss you need to quit and move on! Luckily this doesn’t happen too often, because backstabbing is a very effective way not to get promoted…
Number Three is to always stay friendly with the boss but not forget who you are in the process. There’s nothing more pathetic than people who calculate personal winnings out of every relationship and act accordingly, altering their personality to suit whoever happens to be in charge. Your boss has probably encountered quite a few of those on the way up. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a superior who just happens to be a nice person. Then treat them with the same respect you would show any colleague – but be sure to speak your mind when asked. A good leader will appreciate your true response (and likewise: spot a false and “edited” one).
Number Four is to help your colleagues out whenever you can. This may sound self-evident, but if you have to choose between making a good impression yourself – or letting someone else shine, you should always choose the latter. Because when you do (and what’s even better: if everybody does) you’ll create an encouraging work environment, which makes people more willing to take risks because they know others will stand by them and back them up if necessary. And taking risks – or choosing the unfamiliar path once in a while – is what creativity is all about. Note: this is also a wonderful way of dealing with both complainers and backstabbers. With a little time, they might just dare to let go of their negative thinking and start seeing others as assets instead of enemies…
Number Five is to sincerely try to find the fun in everything you do. With any luck, you’ll be working with something you find rewarding. Or did, back in the days when you were young and adventurous… If you can recapture even part of that glittering feeling, it’ll show through in your work and make you more effective (and more fun to be around for sure :-)). If , on the other hand, you’re dreading each Monday and drawing a sigh of relief every time you get out of the office, you might be better off taking the plunge and heading in a totally different direction. There’s a place for everyone, and this might not be yours. Don’t be afraid of change – sometimes it’s just what you need to make it.
Last but not least, it’s well worth remembering that you’ll get far with the basics: doing good work, achieving your goals and delivering the goods. This will in itself give you credibility and help you tackle any problems, because it gives you a voice that people want to listen to.