Navigating office politics is like trying to deal with catty secondary school kids, with two exceptions: you can’t just get your parents to write you a letter claiming you’re sick when you don’t feel like going, and getting kicked out of school is in many ways less terrible than getting fired from your job, because at least you don’t starve to death.
Having allies at the office, or at least a cordial relationship with most of the people around you, is essential to not sabotaging your career progress. No matter what a fantastic resumé you have, if everyone knows you as an annoying twat, word gets around and you’re going to find it harder to get ahead.
1. Organise lunch with individual colleagues or small groups
Having lunch with your colleagues is the easiest way to bond with them on a more personal level. When you’re the new guy at the office, it’s a good idea to start small by inviting one or two colleagues to lunch with you every now and then.
Now, there’s a big difference between inviting one or two people to eat with you every now and then, and following the mass of colleagues who don’t want to eat alone and so passively go along with everyone else even though they have nothing to say to them.
If your coworkers have a great dynamic, good for you. But some groups I’ve witnessed seem truly depressing (we’ve all seen those groups in office attire sitting miserably side by side), and if you find everyone’s just sitting around listlessly staring at each other simply because they don’t want to eat alone, you’re better off spending your lunch hour doing something else.
On the other hand, making plans with colleagues you don’t see every single day, or whom you don’t lunch with regularly, tends to be good for relationship building, because you’ll mainly be catching up on what you missed over the past few days or weeks and you won’t have totally exhausted all possible conversation topics.
2. Offer to help coworkers, whether in a personal or professional area
Smiling and being agreeable is all well and good. But one problem with making friends at work is the fact that so many people have an ulterior motive—to get ahead. And, well, you can’t completely blame them, because you guys are at work to make a living after all, not to be good samaritans.
One easy way to show you’re not a shark who’ll step over anyone to get what you want (well, assuming you really aren’t one) is to be helpful. You have countless opportunities to help others at work, whether it’s showing a new hire the ropes or cheerfully covering for a colleague on leave without complaining.
Helping people out in their personal lives also earns you brownie points, so go ahead and help your colleague buy face masks on your holiday to Korea or something.
3. Watch your demeanour
It’s likely that your colleagues spend more time with you than your actual family does. They’ll be observing your every word and action, so watch your demeanour at the workplace.
Avoid doing anything that will get you labelled as unpleasant. Excessive gossiping or being bitchy to your subordinates are some examples of behaviour that will win you enemies, even if you don’t realise it.
Everyone gripes about the boss and other colleagues from time to time, but excessive complaining will turn you into an unpleasant person. You’ll not only be a pain to be around, but all that negativity will start to affect your morale, so you’ll be stabbing yourself in the face at the same time.
4. Always send clear emails and give clear instructions
One of the most stressful and most infuriating things you can experience as a rookie terrified of making mistakes is unclear instructions from your boss. As a manager, subordinates sending incoherent emails is pretty annoying, too.
Learn to use numbered lists to give your emails structure. If you’re sending out a long email with many bullet points, headings can be useful, too. The idea is to enable readers to see exactly what you are trying to say at a glance, instead of forcing them to read through a wall of garbled text.
If you’re someone who sends out clear, well-written emails and instructions, your colleagues will secretly love you, because you’re taking away one of the most stressful parts of working in a team.
Who are your favourite coworkers at your current job and why do you like to work with them? Tell us in the comments!
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