We’re back today with the shortest and sweetest of the four tips on how to get and keep a job: Be nice. Or at least act like you are.
This has almost nothing to do with your ability to do the actual work you’re hired to do, but it has everything to do with people actually wanting you to be in the same room with them day after day, week after week, and so on. And you can’t underestimate the importance of that.
Now, I know that “be nice” is pretty general advice, and we all know people who aren’t very nice at all who actually THINK that they’re very nice people. So let me give you some clear and easy examples of clear do’s and don’ts of acting like a nice person in the workplace.
- If someone appears to be distraught, ask them if they’re OK or if they need anything. (And if you’re attracted to them, don’t use it as an opportunity to ask them out. You can do that later.)
- Ask people how their weekend was, and listen to what they say. Try to appear interested, even if you’re really not (Appearing interested in what other people are saying is a very helpful skill in all areas of life. It can make or break you.).
- If someone’s cleary struggling with a project, assignment, deadline, etc. — ask if you can help. Warning: They may say yes, which will obligate you to follow through and actually help. But even if you can’t help, it’s cool of you to ask. Like I said in yesterday’s column about showing drive and desire at work, the mere act of offering to help goes a long way in making people like you at work.
- Don’t ignore people or treat them like they aren’t there just because you don’t work with them directly. Obviously this is more likely at bigger companies, but even at smaller workplaces, sometimes coworkers haven’t spoken a word to each other in months just because their day-to-day work paths don’t cross. Just greet people and say hello them whenever you pass by. Little things like that can someday make a big difference (it’s also really good for expanding your social circle, but that’s another topic altogether).
- Resist the urge to gossip about your coworkers. I know, I know — sometimes it’s REALLY hard, because — well, some people are just ripe for it. But you never know when the wrong person is going to walk into the room and catch part of your conversation, whether it’s the person you’re gossiping about or one of their friends. If you must gossip, do it at home, safely removed from the workplace.
- Don’t sleep with half the office. And I’m talking to both sexes here. Not that there’s anything wrong with consenting adults sleeping with each other, because that’s actually one of the things that makes life bearable. But you know how these things go: sleeping with someone is the number-one cause of pervasive and prolonged interpersonal weirdness, and if you get a handful of pervasive, prolonged, uncomfortably weird personal relationships going at work, then all of a sudden it sucks to be there at all. (Re-reading this tip, I admit that it’s a stretch to categorize it under “be a nice person,” but it’s good advice nonetheless so I’m including it.)
- In all instances, try to see your coworkers as human beings and not just “coworkers” or “fellow drones” or “things with arms and legs that you see every day at work.” They’ll like you better and you’ll like them better, and it’ll make your overall experience at work much less soul-crushing. And if you want to look at it from a pragmatic standpoint, understand the simple human truth that people like other people being nice to them, and the very quality of being “nice” is insurance against a lot of other things. There are loads and loads of utterly incompetent, silly, annoying and none-too-bright people who still manage to keep their jobs because they’re nice, and hurting the feelings of a nice person is something most of us are wired not to enjoy.
Even if you’re really, really good at your job — one of the best, even — your job isn’t 100% secure if you treat other people poorly. Why not? Well, a couple reasons:
1) If you treat other people poorly, then you’ll slowly alienate the people around you. That’s bad. In the future or even the present, you may need their support and cooperation on projects that determine your continued success. If you’re an asshole to them, they won’t want to support or cooperate with you. This will, over time, make you less successful.
And it’s one thing to tolerate a successful jerk who makes the company a lot of money, but an unsuccessful jerk is a prime candidate for a pink slip.
2) If you’re a jerk to the people you work with, you should remember that some of those people will be promoted one day, and may be your superior. When they are, they’ll remember what a jerk you were. You know what they say about revenge. (They say lots of things, I guess — choose the one you like best).
That’s all for today — got a noon meeting with the AAF-Black Hills Board of Directors. And thanks to those of you who sent my son birthday well-wishes — it was a good party with family, friends, and more Star Wars merchandise than I know where to store.