13 Ways to Be a Better Co-Worker

Get to know the people you spend 40 hours a week with better with these simple behavioral changes.

1. Say a cheery "Hello!" in the morning. Do you plod into the office, eyes down, shoulders slumped, and immediately start work? If so, you're likely to find that co-workers ignore you (at best) or avoid you (at worst). Get into the habit of smiling and greeting everyone as you arrive in the morning or begin your shift. It's amazing how fast this little courtesy can thaw chilly workplace relations.

BananaStock Image/JupiterimagesBananaStock Image/Jupiterimages2. Learn the art of small talk. Ask your co-workers about their interests - their favorite music, films, books, hobbies. Showing a genuine interest in them will make them feel comfortable around you. Talk about your life outside the office when it's appropriate. This will remind the people you work with that you're a person first, not just an employee or employer.

3. Ask what they think. People love to be asked their opinion, so go out of your way to ask, "What do you think is missing from this report?" or "How do you think I should handle this situation with X?" Then give the advice-giver a sincere thank you, even if the ideas are less than helpful.

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4. Avoid gossip. You don't want anyone talking about you behind your back, so return the favor. When a co-worker sidles up to you bearing some gossip about an office romance or someone's impending firing, respond with, "Really?" Then change the subject or get back to work. If you don't respond, the gossiper will move on - and you'll retain the trust and respect of your co-workers.

5. When dealing with a difficult co-worker, pretend your children are watching. This simple visualization technique will help you to keep a cool head. After all, you've taught your children to have good manners. With them "watching," it will be difficult to stoop to the level of your infuriating co-worker.

6. Ladle out the compliments. Did Tom fix the office photocopier - again? Has Ann stopped smoking? By all means, compliment your co-workers on their achievements - personal or professional. Too often, we focus on what people are doing wrong.

7. Spread your good cheer. You don't have to be a Pollyanna, but try to perform one kindly act a week, choosing a different co-worker each time. For example, one week you might bring in muffins for no reason. Another week, it might be a card for a co-worker - maybe a thank-you note for helping you out the week before, or a light, humorous card for a co-worker who seems to be a bit down.

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8. Return calls and e-mails promptly. To win friends at work, a good place to start is good office etiquette. There's nothing more frustrating to busy people than to have their e-mails and phone messages ignored. Your silence doesn't just make their job harder to do; it also conveys an unpleasant message to them: you're unimportant to me.

9. Give credit where credit is due. Don't withhold credit from deserving co-workers. You'll alienate them, and they won't be there for you when you need them (or when they all go out for lunch). Embrace the attitude that we all win together, and let others know when someone has done something above and beyond the call of duty on a project. Also, if someone incorrectly gives you credit and praise, acknowledge your co-worker who does deserve the accolades. It will be remembered.

10. Here's one for the boss: always work at least as hard as anyone working with or for you. Make it clear that you would never ask anyone to do a level of work you wouldn't be willing to take on yourself.

11. Always be on time to show you respect other people's time.

12. Express your good ideas in a way that makes it clear that they are not the only good ideas, and that others may have equally good insights to add.

13. Assume the positive about what you don't know. Isn't it funny how a team of workers often think they're working harder than another team elsewhere in the building? Or that the bosses are clueless? Don't subscribe to that kind of toxic thinking, even if it's rampant. It's a negative attitude that makes work become miserable. Instead, assume that everyone else is working hard and doing their best, even if you don't know what their work is. You should believe both in the work you're doing and the organization you're doing it for. If you can't, perhaps it's time to move on.

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