In high school and college, group projects were the bane of my existence. Even worse than being assigned a group project was being assigned to a specific group. I often ended up with teammates who would rather master a keg stand than statistical analysis. As it turns out, group projects, along with messy siblings and loud roommates, left me better prepared for workplace interactions than any college course.
Unless you hold one of those rare positions that limits human contact, you will need to be good at your job, and good at working with others in order to be successful. So what are some of the basics to getting along with others at work? Well, I don’t have it all figured out—workplace peace is as elusive as world peace—but I do have a few tips that will help.
First, learn to self-reflect. Instead of forwarding these tips to an annoying co-worker, find something that you can work on and then start working! When you focus on fixing yourself, everyone else is a little less annoying.
When it comes to email, think of what Goldilocks would say, not too much, not too little, just enough. Email is not a replacement for an actual conversation. Be proactive in your communication. Let teammates, coworkers and supervisors know where things stand before they have to ask. No need to copy everyone on every email, instead send out a midday or end-of-day update to teammates. Let them know it’s done, and if it isn’t done, tell them why and and when it will get done. Last, but not least, don’t hit send until you’ve considered the purpose of the email and whether the end product will achieve that goal.
Take the 24 hour approach to emotionally charged conversations and whatever you do, do not engage in them via email or text. After 24 hours and a good night’s sleep, you may forget all about it. If not, you’ll at least be able to engage in a more productive conversation. Also, keep in mind that it might not be about you. When people are stressed they often lash out at the least-deserving individual. You may have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
Rephrase negative feedback. Your team may have a lot of dumb ideas, but pointing that out may not be the most effective way to initiate change. When you have a legitimate concern, take the time to gather information. When you are ready to be part of the solution, then and only then, voice your concerns. “I appreciate how much work you put into this plan, but I do have some concerns about xyz. I’ve done some research and have an option you may want to consider.”
If you are still in school and reading this, I’m sorry to break it to you. Most jobs require teamwork and just because you’ve entered the workforce doesn’t mean your teammates will be more motivated. Be sure to set clear, realistic goals. Don’t assign the spreadsheet analysis to the guy on your team that makes everyone laugh, but doesn’t do math. Making everyone laugh at work is an important roll, so let him do what he is good at, another team member can do the spreadsheet.