3 Ways To Be An Ideal Coworker

If you'd like to have a job in the future, you need to form connections now. Here are strategies for forming enduring bonds.

Is every office an extension of high school?

If people think the ultra-progressive Valve can be, then anywhere can have elements of the lunch room, as Brazen Life writer Laura Abrar observes:

Cliques, favorites, geeks, Alpha and Beta wannabes, the studiously shy, teacher’s pets, gossip drones, queen bees, jocks and more are present in the hallways at work.

The key, then, is to establish a little psychosocial literacy—or, in other words, discover how to become an asset to your coworkers. Which, like figuring out what we actually want to do with our lives, is easier than it sounds, so long as we can get specific.

Show up early

I recall a former Esquire editor telling a group of Midwestern cub reporters that one of the best things you can do at an internship is to show up early and stay late—for while the bias to face time is toxic, it most certainly does exist, and we aspirants need every bit of fortune we can nab.

Plus, Abrar observes, getting in early allows you to see the lay of the land: who arrives when and why and how they work. And when you find someone who is great at what you want to do—study the hell out of them.

Learn the personality types

While the Myers-Briggs personality types are by no means exhaustive—you could call it astrology for MBAs—recognizing the people, including you and me, who are disposed to high or low stimulation, listening or waiting to talk, can be liberating: When you realize that you have behavioral tendencies stemming from events early in your life, it's much easier to not have to be right all the time.

In other words, the more nuanced understanding we have of people's strengths, needs, and triggers, the better we can move in harmony with them, which bolsters the bandwidth of your connections—which network science finds as a major predictor of success.

Be a human

Why should you carve out time for coworker coffee? For one, its something that makes CEOs good leaders. For two, lets again turn to Abrar:

Coworkers are probably having just as bad and as stressful a day as you are, with 30 other unspoken frustrations. A supportive chat or few minutes grabbing coffee together means you can get to know them as a real person, and not as that next-door cubicle automaton.

And as we've discussed before, your career is probably going to go on for a while, and there's no way to know what the people sitting around you are going to do in the future—the longer those ties lay latent, the more powerful the eventual reconnect becomes. And since opportunities come attached to people, the self-beneficial thing is to treat them well.

Hat tip: Brazen Life

[Image: Flickr user Jordan Richmond]

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  • John O. Alizor

    As a leadership scholar, I have a PhD in the topic, I founf this article to be very refreshing. I wrote a book which also pushes the idea that the more human and compassionate you are the better people will work with you and for you. 
    Read more about similar ideas at unleadables.com

  • KJ

    Finally! An accurate take on what it means to interact with coworkers (and the very, very human tools you need not to navigate and, more importantly, thrive in a professional environment). It comes as a shock at first and almost makes you want to throw a tantrum that a big brain and a way with words aren't everything you need to succeed. Flexibility, industriousness, focus, and high quality of work are great, but if you don't play part-time psychologist to the many naturally fractured personalities that appear in your midst, you will slow your success. It's a fact. It feels unfair at first, but then you realize you're developing something like superhuman abilities to juggle (and pacify and help) all the crazy people around, including yourself...!

  • Elizabeth M. Lane

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