The guy in the next cubicle. The twenty-something who wears so much cologne that victims in his radius of attack can suffer sinus problems for days. The loud-talker with the desk near the microwave, who holds innocent lunch-eaters captive for their entire lunch hour with recounts of her dating dramas. The experience of having to share a workplace with eccentric, funny, or even downright unpleasant people is so commonplace, entire television sitcoms and dramas have been created around this very phenomenon. Globoforce, an employment social recognition organization, estimates that nearly 80% of people who work 30-50 hours per week spend more time with their coworkers than they do their families. Wouldn’t it be nice to spend our time at work enjoying the people we’re around? Sometimes it's a matter of getting to know someone outside of work to build a bond that can make the person more tolerable back within cubicle city!
A quote by the late, Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers) reads "There isn't a person you couldn't love, once you learned their story." I love this quote. Every time I encounter a difficult person, I think about the story they must be living that causes them to be this way. I think if I could understand their story, I might have a bit more compassion, patience, understanding.
So to help you understand your team members' stories, here are 5 tips to improve the relationships with your co-workers and enjoy that 30-50 hours a bit more:
Try a Little Thankfulness with Team Members.
Not only does setting aside mental energy to actively acknowledge what you’re thankful for increase mental and physical health, gratitude can actually increase your number of positive working relationships. A study that appeared in Emotion in 2014 found that sincerely thanking someone can make them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship with you. A simple, genuine expression of thanks has the potential to lead to a lasting friendship. Make a point to show gratitude toward those you work with.
Get Away From the Office.
There's a reason American companies spend approximately $1.5 billion million on team building and team engagement activities each year. Getting people out and giving them an opportunity to see their co-workers as real people helps to bridge conflict and build relationships. We see it every day with teams that host a Wine & Design team-building event. Suddenly, Carol is not just "the accounting manager," she is a fun, mom of 3 who can paint a mean sunset! Make a point to gather team members and get away for a couple hours, even if it's a couple of times a year, to get to see the real person behind the work persona.
- Mind Your Other Manners, Too.
Manners are crucial for improved relations. Be on time for meetings, keep personal calls minimal and quiet, and go heavy on the “pleases”. (Added tip: the Golden Rule means that if you wouldn’t like someone else drinking your Snapple, or eating a tuna/onion sandwich next to you, then the other person probably won’t like it, either.)
No really, listen – with the intent to understand. Stephen Covey once said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Being present when someone is talking to you and validating what they’re saying (NOT forming your response while they’re still talking!), can make it much easier to get along with virtually anyone. Practice recapping or paraphrasing when someone is saying something you don't agree with…IT'S HARD!
- Show Some Interest.
Okay, so you may not be as excited about the Comic Con Extravaganza coming to town as your co-workers are. However, do let those you work with feel that you regard him or her as a person of importance. If others feel that you value them and care about their interests, your own value will increase in their eyes. Go into an interviewer mode and ask a question. Be curious. Tell them you find that interesting, without sarcasm.
Your co-workers are there, sharing your space, every day. A few simple, easy steps on your part can make a significant improvement in your day-to-day interactions, as well as your overall work experience. Besides, aren’t you just a little curious about seeing Carol's mean sunset?