The average person spends 90,000 hours at work during their lifetime—that’s about 10 years. So why do so many of us put up with less-than-stellar work environments? In fact, 35 percent of people looking for a new job do so because of internal politics.
While you may not cause a company-wide attitude shift during this time, you can be the change you want to see—and make a huge impact on the people you interact with on a daily basis. From C-suite executives to entry-level associates, everyone can use her sphere of influence to nurture positive relationships with her workmates. Your professional growth depends on both your performance-based hard skills and relationship-building soft skills. Focus on these techniques to positively influence office dynamics and boost your team’s morale.
01. Get to know your coworkers.
Seek out your teammates’ personal interests beyond the scope of your work. Make time for casual chatter. Ask about their weekend or rejoice over the good weather. Small talk uncovers tidbits of personality and can prompt more meaningful conversations. And don’t forget to play to your natural strengths. Extroverts may bond best during a team happy hour while introverts might shine in a one-on-one coffee run.
Familiarity and friendship eases the inevitable conflicts and candid discussions of work life. Building positive interactions with your coworkers will make difficult situations less tense. You can still be professional without over-sharing or prying. Outside work hours, take initiative to plan events, which will give everyone an opportunity to bond in a non-office atmosphere. Your workday will be more pleasant if you have fun with and know your coworkers.
02. Lead by example.
A true leader is a model of the mantra, “The life you live is the lesson you teach.” She lives her values and beliefs. She earns and gives respect through her work ethic and gracious demeanor. She projects confidence but not conceit. Even if you’re not a leader by title, you can lead in any stage of your career. Concentrate on honing your innate leadership qualities, and inspire others with your integrity in action. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” Every woman has her own leadership style that enhances her workplace in a unique way.
03. Ask questions.
Never be above asking questions or requesting help. Think you know it all? Well, you don’t. But neither does your boss! Every day you have new opportunities to learn. Take advantage of each chance to gain morsels of knowledge. You can always learn something from someone. Intellectual curiosity proves your maturity, dedication, and humility. If you’re at a stalemate with your latest project, ask for help. Wouldn’t you rather get a little support than go solo with a mediocre result?
Asking for help not only improves the quality of your work, but it also affirms your coworkers as you show trust in their input and expertise. When appropriate, ask questions that challenge your workmates, too. Don’t hold back if you disagree—do so with courtesy, of course. Your coworkers will appreciate your candid spirit and honesty.
04. Treat everyone with equal respect.
Be just as respectful to your subordinates as your boss. You’re less likely to have snarky banter with your manager than your peer, but both should be treated with equal consideration. Give each person—interns and CEOs alike—the attention and regard they deserve. It can be hard to maintain civility if it isn’t returned. But constant grace in the face of direct or passive antagonism is honorable. Everyone you interact with should receive the same impression of you.
05. Listen more than you talk.
Practice active, sincere listening. Consider the perspectives of others before you voice your opinion. Make sure you fully comprehend the situation or problem. The fifth habit in Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Covey advocates the importance of empathetic listening since we often listen with the intent to reply rather than to understand. We tend to plan our response before the speaker even finishes talking.
Focused listening allows you to reference the views of others when you share your own thoughts. Using phrases like, “As Jack pointed out” and “Building off Jill’s idea,” will show that you were listening with attentiveness. It also shows you value the opinions of your coworkers. Don’t take a my-way-or-the-highway approach. Selective listening ostracizes while active listening builds trust.
06. Keep a can-do attitude.
Attitudes are contagious. Any ounce of pessimism can cause a domino effect of poor productivity. Acknowledge your challenges, but work toward the solution with a can-do outlook. Instead of wallowing in a setback, focus on encouraging your workmates to collaborate on next steps. This will positively motivate your team for collective success. Psychology professor Barbara Fredrickson’s research uncovered a connection between positive emotions such as serenity, joy, and love and the ability to keep an open mind. Open-mindedness allows you and your teammates to solve problems creatively and avoid the tunnel vision of negativity.
07. Be helpful and available.
One of the key benefits of communities is shared knowledge and collaboration. Be open about your willingness to lend a hand. Generously share your expertise and skills, and offer to help your coworkers. Take time to invest in their professional growth and success. Project an approachable demeanor to encourage questions and comments. Stay in tune with the needs and challenges of your teammates to know when you can pitch in.
08. Give encouraging but honest feedback.
While words of encouragement are uplifting, don't use them to sugarcoat reality. Be sure to share honest feedback, even if it means pointing out gaps or missed opportunities. A collaborator offers constructive criticism to bring out the best in her teammates. Withholding your advice and feedback can be detrimental to your team’s performance.
It's not a good idea to sandwich criticism with compliments. Though a popular feedback-giving tactic, this lacks a feeling of authenticity and weakens your point. Instead, choose the setting wisely and suggest solutions. In most cases, it’s best to share critical feedback individually rather than in front of teammates or superiors. Privacy decreases the likelihood of defensiveness and increases the chance of a receptive response and productive conversation.
09.Participate in organized events.
Be present at work events, in and outside the office. Participating in company gatherings shows your support of your organization’s team-building efforts. Whether it’s a volunteer day, holiday party, or drinks after hours, make an effort to join. You’ll be able to spend time with your teammates in a more casual environment. Doing so will also increase your visibility, giving you opportunities to interact with senior colleagues and those outside of your team.
10. Do your job well.
Last but not least, work hard to perform well. At the end of the day, the best way to positively influence your coworkers is by getting the job done. Ensure that your workmates can depend on you to meet deadlines and produce quality work. Pull your weight and focus on being timely, responsive, and thorough. And whether you’re in the business of auditing taxes, attending to patients, or editing a magazine, do it all with a smile.