How to get along with coworkers

If there’s one thing you learn in the corporate world, it’s this: You can choose your job, but you can’t choose your coworkers. As much as you’d like to be all sunshine and rainbows with everyone, the fact is even the smallest differences can cause conflicts with your colleagues. Trying to please everyone isn’t an option, which means there’s bound to be disagreement from time to time.

It’s in your best interest to get along with coworkers despite those conflicts, though, to maintain a professional relationship and a better work environment. When you know how to get along with coworkers, you’re more likely to be healthier and happier.

Makes sense, really. The better your relationships with your colleagues, the more you can turn to them in times of need, and the easier your job will be to perform.

So, regardless of your personality type, it’s in your best interest to at least have a diplomatic relationship with your coworkers. If you’re not sure how to establish that kind of relationship, here are some tips on how to get along with coworkers to get you started.


1. Be Yourself, Within Reason

Let’s be honest. Nobody likes a fake. If you have to deal with a person who smiles in front of everyone but gossips about them behind their back, you’re bound to keep your guard up around that person.

On the other hand, oversharing at work can backfire on you, too. If your talks with coworkers always venture into TMI territory, they’ll eventually find ways to avoid being around you. The key is to be your best, most professional self.

Treat your colleagues the way you’d want to be treated. Ask them about their day, but don’t press them for information unless they volunteer it. If there’s someone you don’t like, be polite and respectful to them, and no more. Keep in mind that, while it’s possible to make best friends at work, your professional and personal relationships will always be different from each other. Be mindful of those differences and do what you can to communicate better and get along despite them.


2. Practice Positive Body Language

Whether you’re aware of it or not, people pick up hints about your thoughts and feelings based on your body language. If you smile to make a coworker feel comfortable, but your arms are crossed at the same time, your coworker will realize your smile is insincere within seconds.

Therefore, if you want to fake a good mood, you have to fake it all the way through. When you smile, make sure the rest of your body “smiles” with you, like this:

  • Use a comfortable posture, but don’t splay out your body.
  • Lean slightly toward the other person to show you’re listening to them.
  • Maintain eye contact during conversations and blink occasionally.
  • Talk with a well-modulated voice.

Once you master these positive body language tips, getting along with coworkers should be easier.

3. Be Better, or the Best, at What You Do

Often, people are willing to overlook your differences as long as you can compensate for them with your competence. For example, if you’re in a job where you don’t have to interact much with others, your colleagues probably wouldn’t care whether you’re Ms. Congeniality or not – as long as you’re not rude.

But even if you are the best of the best, you’d still want to be a humble, agreeable person. After all, the job market accepts at least tens of thousands of entrants a month, and any one of those entrants can be just as good as, if not better than, you in terms of skill level.


4. Avoid Office Drama

If you’re not the most charming person at work, the last thing you want is to be called an “office drama queen.” Be responsive when your coworkers engage you in conversation, but avoid badmouthing even when everyone else does the same. You never know when your words will come back to bite you.

Also, don’t be that person who complains about everything. As legitimate as your complaints are, no one likes to be around someone who exudes negative vibes all the time. Keep your head down, do good work and change the subject whenever someone shares a bit of salacious gossip with you.

Drama can cause you stress, and that makes you less efficient at your job. In fact, employee stress causes a $300 billion drain on worker productivity each year. So stay away from the drama and focus on the positives! Your coworkers will pick up on it and your relationships will improve because of it.


5. Be Considerate of Your Coworkers

This should be common sense, but if you’re the type of person who makes things difficult for everyone in one way or another, you’re not likely to get good karma in return. If you want to stay in your colleagues’ good graces, practice good manners like these:

  • Try to be early as often as you can. Aside from looking good on your timesheet, it can also help coworkers who need you.
  • Clean up after yourself in common areas. You don’t want a coworker accidentally stumbling on your dirty paper cup.
  • Steer clear of smelly lunches such as curry or tuna, especially if you’re in an air-conditioned office.
  • If you need to chat with someone personally, keep your voice audible only to the person you’re talking to. Otherwise, you might disrupt coworkers trying to concentrate on their own jobs.

When you’re considerate of others, that makes everyone happy. And happy workers are 12 percent more productive in the workplace.


6. Be Tactful

No one likes to be told they’re wrong/stupid/incompetent, even if they are. If you want to correct a coworker without sounding like a jerk, here’s what you should keep in mind:

  • Start off with something positive: “Thank you for your work on this! I really appreciate it.”
  • Stick to the facts: “It seems the numbers are a bit short this time around, though.”
  • Suggest a solution: “I think we can improve on this problem with that solution.”
  • Be clear about the next step: “Can you do this by that date?” or “What do you think?” or “If you have any thoughts about this, please let me know!”

When you follow these tips, you can make yourself clear to your coworker without undermining or embarrassing them. And that’s a pretty handy skill to have when you’re working with others.


7. Ask for Help When You Need It

Nothing makes people feel important like being needed. If you want to let someone know you value their input, ask them questions when you’re not clear about something. By doing so, you demonstrate not only humility but also a willingness to work in a team.


8. Be Positive and Kind, No Matter What

As they say, “Kill ’em with kindness.” You don’t know what your coworkers think or feel on any given day, so don’t make assumptions about them, especially if said assumptions are negative.

Even if your colleagues are angry, rude or a general pain to be with, it won’t do either of you any good if you decide to fight fire with fire. Instead, learn how to be empathetic, which is a vital ingredient to working well with others.

Again, know that no matter how well you understand and apply these tips, there will be one or two colleagues who won’t be too happy to have you around. Regardless, keep your chin up, do the best job you can and stay positive.


In the meantime, learn more about the secrets to workplace success by subscribing to the Punched Clocks newsletter and sharing your thoughts – or stories – in the comments or via social media.

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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