How To Become A Better Coworker

Posted on by Alyson Jones. Posted in Blog, Huffington Post.

Just this morning the alarm jolted me out of my pleasant dream. As I groped around in the dark trying to find the button, I was already negotiating with myself to see if it would be possible to hide out in bed for another 10 minutes. I knew this was a dangerous negotiation which could result in me falling back to sleep and being late for work. I decided to ignore the desire to keep my eyes closed and hauled myself out of bed. It struck me that our early morning alarm is in many ways the ultimate reality check.

Most of us have our morning routines that help us transition from the comfort of our beds to the reality of the workplace. I poured my coffee, did my stretches and followed my morning routine until I was not only ready for work, but I was determined to make it a good day at the office. I walked into the office and said a cheery good morning to my co-workers, and another work day had now truly commenced.

Between sleep and work there is limited time left to explore the rest that the world has to offer. The reality is that our time is precious, whether it is spent working, sleeping or playing. When we start to look at the statistics, the amount of time we spend at work is rather startling.

On average a person will spend around 90,000 hours of their life at work. This means that most of us spend about one third of our lives at our job. This is based on a 40 hour work week — if you are anything like me your work week may exceed 40 hours, so 90,000 hours is a conservative estimate.

When we realize that such a large portion of our time is actually spent at work, one would think we would be motivated to make this time as pleasant as possible. However, many of us know that this is not always the case. Most people have some sort of war stories from work that involve a difficult coworker or boss who seems bent on making our lives miserable.

Maybe it is a rite of passage to some degree, as life will present opportunities for us to learn how to deal with difficult people — but what can we do ourselves to create a good work environment? Since we spend so much time at work how can we bring joy and satisfaction to that time? Here are some tips each of us can do that will result in a better work environment and a much more satisfying use of our time.

1. Let go of defensive reactions. There is no learning when you are busy defending yourself. There is personal and professional growth when we are accountable and accept feedback. If you want to do a job well you are going to have to listen to what your co-workers and leaders say.

Try not to personalize feedback as criticism, but rather accept that we all need to learn from our mistakes. Feedback is an opportunity for growth, and if you defend against it you will miss the chance to grow and learn. Feedback is not always about what you did wrong; it can also be about how your actions impact things in a positive manner.

Be receptive to feedback, and take responsibility for both mistakes and successes. From my perspective, defensive behavior is extremely costly because it is a great time waster.

2. Lean to be adaptable. It is not all about you – that’s right – sometimes we have to get over ourselves and learn to fit in. This is one of the great lessons in becoming a true “grown up”. Our workplaces, and co-workers, do not revolve around us and our own personal needs.

When you are working with others you are going to need to learn to adapt and become a part of an organization. Look for the social cues and learn to adapt to the culture. If you are working on your own you still need to learn to adapt to people in other organizations you will be working with. In the end, we all have to learn to adapt — no matter if we work for a large organization, a small business or as a sole proprietor. We all want to belong — so “read the room” and pay attention to the culture of the organizations and those around you.

3. Do the work! You are there to do a job – so do it! None of us are entitled to a pay cheque – we all have to earn it. We are also not entitled to each day being an exercise in personal enlightenment – some days are just hard and require a lot of effort. Look for what you can contribute. Do not be afraid to pitch in or go above and beyond whenever you can. If you offer to lighten the loads of others you will create bonds, earn recognition and demonstrate your ability to be of service – and bring yourself more personal satisfaction.

4. Have a sense of humour. People want to spend time with others that make them feel good — a sense of humour will go a long way in lifting the mood of others and yourself. It is important to be able to laugh at ourselves, and to laugh at the absurdities that life throws our way. Good humour in the workplace does not put other people down, but rather it pulls us together. As stated earlier we spend a lot of hours at our job — and most of us would much rather spend it with someone who can put a smile on our face.