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February 3, 2016 // 8:00 AM

The Art of Being a Great Coworker: 13 Ways to Improve Your Work Relationships

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This year, you'll likely spend more time with your coworkers than you will with your significant other, parents, best friend, siblings, cat, and ... well, you get the point.

Think about it: If you work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, that's over 2,000 hours a year spent with the same people -- give or take a vacation or two, of course. That's a ton of time, and can often lead to a ton of silent (or not so silent) frustrations.

This makes building positive relationships with the people you work with a priority -- or in some cases, a means of survival. Even if you hate the way Jim blows his nose at his desk or you cringe every time Stacy offers her opinion in a meeting, you crossed paths with these people for a reason. And it's up to you to put your best foot forward. 

There's a lot we can learn from our coworkers, and it all starts with finding a productive way to coexist and collaborate. For tips on how to but your best foot forward at work, keep reading.

The Art of Being a Great Coworker

1) Express appreciation and acknowledgement.

When people feel unappreciated in the workplace, it becomes harder and harder for them to see the benefit in going that extra mile. If there's no one there to recognize the work they put in, there's little motivation to continue to do more. 

That's where you come in. Whether you're a manager or just a grateful peer, make an effort to give credit where credit is due. This can translate to verbal recognition in a company meeting or something as simple as a thoughtful email. 

"Offer little celebrations of the good things or accomplishments in their life -- getting promoted, getting married, winning a race, etc. A little note or nod of congratulations is always appreciated, and reminds people they're part of a supportive team," explains HubSpot's Director of Content Corey Wainwright. 

2) Respond to emails or calls promptly.

Everyone has a job to do. And if your approval or feedback is required for one of your coworkers to move the needle on a project, don't make them wait. Bottlenecking a project is not only frustrating, but it can also have a significant impact on a person's (or an entire team's) ability to reach company-wide goals.

If you're unsure whether or not you're guilty of this, ask your teammates to specify a time frame within the body of their emails to help you keep track of priorities. Or, if you don't have time to respond immediately, my colleague Lindsay Kolowich suggests "shooting them a quick 'I'm held up right now, but I'll look this over this this afternoon or tomorrow' email."

3) Steer clear of gossip.

Ah, the office water cooler. The place where Mark goes to complain to his sales buddy about Steve's work ethic, and Sarah and Emily gather to vent about the suspicious relationship between their two interns over a Dixie cup of the cold stuff. 

While you may be tempted to eavesdrop or chime in on one these inevitable gossip sessions -- it's human nature, after all -- it's best to avoid them at all costs. Not only is engaging in office gossip both risky and unprofessional, but it can result in some pretty sticky situations.

So instead of feeding into groundless gossip, do your best to curb hurtful rumors. The best way to limit the amount of swirling hearsay? Keep lines of communication open. The more transparent and honest you and your team are with one another, the less room there is for speculation.

(Want more on this? Check out this post on how to deal with office politics.)

4) Be humble.

Being humble doesn't translate to selling yourself short. It doesn't mean that you're passive or insecure. Instead, humility actually shows that you have a clear perspective and you're self-aware -- which is actually a sign of emotional intelligence.

In an office setting, this ability to recognize your own limitations and shortcomings can make it easier for you to build meaningful relationships with your coworkers. For example, knowing that you don't have all the answers might lead you to ask others for their input. This signals to your colleagues that you're open to other ideas, and can ultimately help you identify and solve for their specific needs. Sounds like a win-win. 

5) Avoid annoying office habits.

According to a survey on office habits conducted by the office product supplier Viking, nearly 29% of participants admitted that they find it frustrating when their colleagues are regularly late. But that's not all: Over 20% of folks dislike it when their colleagues fail to replace things that run out (coffee, printer paper, etc.), while nearly 21% admitted they have a problem with those who talk too loudly on the phone. And the list goes on ...

The lesson? Be considerate of others. If you share common spaces such as meeting rooms, be sure to clean up after yourself and avoid exceeding the time you booked it for. If you have an open office floor plan, be conscious of how loud you play your music or how frequently you take long calls. 

"It took me a few weeks into my first job out of college to realize just how loud my chewing was in the roomful of quiet, concentrating people. Were my coworkers wearing headphones because they liked listening to music, or because I'd been chowing down on carrots for the last 20 minutes?" jokes my colleague Lindsay. For more tips on how to be more considerate in the office, check out her article on breaking annoying office habits

6) Reach out to new teammates.

New job nerves are the pits. You toss and turn the night before your big first day worrying about everything from your new commute to whether or not you'll fit in to what "fun facts" you'll share about yourself during mandatory ice breakers. 

To make new team members feel at ease, make an effort to help them get situated during their first few days or weeks on the job -- even if it's just through little considerations like welcoming questions or giving them the low-down on where to grab lunch. 

"It's always awkward being the 'noob' walking into a room of unfamiliar people, so sit next to them at their first meeting. It's a small gesture that will make them feel all the more welcome," suggests my colleague Anum Hussain. 

7) Share your resources.

Take a look at the people you work closely with. They've all been hired for a reason, right? Maybe Nathan is really great at problem-solving, while Sue can negotiate till the cows come home. There's something you can learn from everyone. 

And regardless of our unique strengthens and specific titles, it's undeniably helpful when someone shares a resource that might benefit the team as a whole. 

"Find something particularly inspiring or thought provoking? Whether it's a blog post or intriguing design, it could be just what your neighbor needs to kickstart their big project," insists my colleague Megan Conley. 

At HubSpot, we use group Slack channels to share ideas and articles all the time, such as this post that's recently been circulating on the concept of radical candor

8) Be respectful of people's time. 

We're all busy and stressed. We're all dealing with things we don't want to deal with. And most importantly, we all wish there were more than 24 hours in a day. 

While you can't resolve these problems with the wave of a wand, you can take small steps towards making them more manageable by respecting your coworkers' time. Aware that 5 minutes here and 20 minutes there can add up during the day, make an effort to show up on time and come prepared.

"If a meeting ends early, don't try to fill the time. If a meeting doesn't need to happen anymore, cancel it. Being respectful of people's time is appreciated," urges Corey.

9) Bring snacks.

Remember in elementary school when you used to bring in cupcakes on your birthday? Why'd you ever stop?

This one's simple: One of the best ways to your coworker's heart is through their stomach. (Just be conscious of food allergies.) 

10) Make valuable connections and introductions.

Heard one of your coworkers is looking for a freelancer for the project they're working on? You know just the guy! So make the connection. 

Help your coworkers achieve their goals by identifying opportunities to make introductions between folks who would benefit from knowing one another. Maybe you recommend a potential candidate for an open position on your team or connect a new hire with a tenured employee to provide them with some guidance. 

"Two networks are always better than one," insists my colleague Eric Peters. 

11) Lighten their workload when they have to be OOO.

Anytime you have to miss a couple days in the office -- whether it be for personal reasons, a vacation, or an illness -- it's easy to get stressed out. You worry about the emails you're missing, the meetings you had to cancel, and the hours upon hours it's going to take you to get caught up. It's enough to make you sick ... oh wait ... you already are. 

Help your coworkers avoid this vicious cycle by stepping in to lend a helping hand when and where you can. "Offer to help take over some of their work so they don't come back to a pile of it and won't worry about getting stuff done when they need to be away," suggests Corey.

12) Create traditions.

At my first job out of college, every Friday -- or "Fiesta Friday," as we called it -- we'd order up arguably too much Mexican food and have lunch together as a team. And when I moved to HubSpot, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they had their own (equally delicious) weekly tradition: Waffle Wednesday

Here's the thing about workplace traditions: Aside from being a great excuse to eat, they provide a shared experience for people to look forward to. Whether you indulge in weekly burritos, venture out on a outdoor team retreat, or just grab a few drinks for a colleague's birthday, these gatherings can help people build stronger connections while strengthening your company's identity and culture. 

Want to be the one to bring new energy to your office? Coin a new tradition. To inspire your efforts, here are a few fun outing ideas and team building activities everyone will enjoy.

13) Just listen.

"If someone needs to vent for a bit, lend them an ear," encourages my colleague Emma Snider.

Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do for a coworker is to give them a chance to get a few things off their chest. Active listening is empathic skill that will help you truly understand what your coworker is going through, so that you can better help them arrive at a solution. 

Considering our ability to detect, understand, and feel one another's emotions influences the way we form bonds and strengthen relationships, this small act of kindness can go along way in establishing trust and comradery.

Here's a great post on active listening as it applies to sales, but the tips work just the same in almost any scenario. 

What tips do you have for being a better coworker? Share them below.

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Topics: Management Leadership Office Life

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