The phrase “Must work well with others” is so commonly found on job descriptions for open positions that it gets ignored almost completely. And yet it’s not simply text placed there to fill space, nor is it an empty request–it’s a threat.
If you don’t work well with others, you’re going to get fired. And not just from this job, but the next one as well, and the next, until you end up in a job where you don’t have to work well with others. And trust me, that’s not a job you want to have. On the other hand, developing the right habits when it comes to working with others will result in leadership opportunities, higher pay, and more rewarding work. Based on my experience running a business for the past 15 years, I’ve listed 30 habits below which, when implemented correctly, I’ve seen contribute to individual and team success.
Some of the practices may seem obvious, but if they were obvious to everyone, everyone would get them right. Chances are for every habit I’ve listed below you know someone who gets it wrong. There are a lot more ways to work well with others, but I chose to mention the practices I feel provide the largest benefits with the least amount of effort. Many of them don’t require much more than remembering to do them. But I recognize even that can be difficult. The trick is to practice a few of them consistently for 3 to 4 weeks until they become habits, and then move on to the next group.
Many of these items might seem like small things, but getting just a few wrong–or right–can be the difference between keeping a job and getting fired, getting a promotion or staying where you’re at, progressing at work or standing still, and developing rewarding relationships at work or feeling like a loser.
1. Put your phone away. If your phone is on the table while you’re speaking to someone, the message you are sending is “I’m waiting for something more important than you.” If you’re holding your phone in your hand, the message is “You’re not nearly as important as what you’re keeping me from doing on my phone.”
2. Hang out. Your co-workers don’t have to be your best friends or family, but there is something to be said for spending casual time with co-workers once in a while. You’ll learn things about them you would never learn at work, and you’ll create positive bonds that can aid in your work relationships.
3. Assume the best. Have you ever made a negative assumption about someone based on something he did or said, only to find out later that your assumption was completely wrong? I seem to do this at least once a week. I’ve found it handy as a mental exercise to try and make up my own excuses for the person in question. Give others the benefit of the doubt when there’s a question, and then work to verify the facts.
4. Don’t interrupt. Sometimes we just can’t wait to get our brilliant ideas out. Stop. Relax. People aren’t impressed when you talk, they’re impressed when you listen. If you want people to love you, get them talking about themselves, and then don’t do anything to get in their way.
5. Share credit. Three things happen when you share credit for a job well done. First, the person you share credit with will like you. Second, everyone else will respect and like you, and they’ll want to work with you, because they’ll see that you don’t try to take all the glory for yourself. Third, you won’t look like a selfish jerk, which is what happens when you try to take credit for yourself, even if the credit is truly yours.
6. Think win-win. A zero-sum game is a situation where someone else’s gain is your loss, and vice versa. Some people see almost every situation in life this way. Is that the kind of person you want to work with? If you’re that way, will anyone want to work with you? Instead, look for the opportunities where everyone benefits and your career will move a lot faster.