Making Friends at Work, Without Sucking Up
The people you choose to interact with at work will have an immense impact on your performance and satisfaction. This article will delve into the intricacies of your new work environment, building rapport, and common pitfalls. I have worked as a retail manager, restaurant employee, soccer coach, and several office positions; and while they all have their differences, the techniques used to navigate these landscapes are similar.
Understanding your environment
I will break this section into two parts; customer service (CS) positions, and office environments. Customer service positions require resilience, to withstand the inevitable barrage of bull shit that prospective customers will throw at you. The stress resulting from irksome customers often leads to team building smoke sessions and post-work binge drinking, so if you want to fast track your relationships, be prepared for the post-work festivities. Most of my college parties were spent among my roommate’s restaurant co-workers, and they were some of the greatest times I ever had. CS employees are generally outgoing, and fun to be around. I highly recommend a customer service position for anyone who wants to meet new people. [Ariel’s note: “Hii tyler 😉 <3”]
Then, there’s office jobs, which usually exhaust personnel by rote labor. The stress of working in an office environment is reduced by the exclusion of customers, but amplified by a few bad actors. Every office will have a designated office dick or biatch, and you will have the tough decision of befriending them, or avoiding them at all costs. This decision hinges upon your career expectations. For me, I avoid kissing (:-*) the ass of anyone who irks me, regardless of their position.
Genuine people will be appreciated by their co-workers, but can be perceived by upper-management as lacking initiative. The loudest person in the room often leads the herd to their demise, and fosters a group-think culture. My current position in Silicon Valley presents countless examples of homogeneous behavior; a preference to blend in, instead of standing out.
Topics for discussion
Now that you’ve gained an understanding of your environment, you need to start engaging with your co-workers. If you’ve spent a couple days observing your peers, you will be able to identify individuals who are comfortable in their position, and maintain positive rapport with others. These individuals are your social capital jackpots. Also, consult the veterans to learn the do’s and don’ts.
Some questions you can comfortably ask:
- Do people hangout outside work? (Shows an interest in building relationships outside of work)
- Favorite/least favorite aspect of work? (A primer for what you can expect on the extremes)
- What’s the most common mistake people make? (Avoid getting on the boss’s shit list)
- Which managers should I avoid? (Some managers are conflict-driven; be cordial and move on)
Getting ahead early
There’s no perfect time to hop out of your shell and mingle with your co-workers. I recommend sitting back for the first couple weeks, gauge behaviors, and then express yourself freely. You don’t need to approach everyone immediately; start with the closest or “friendliest”, and branch out. Despite people’s outward appearance, most people will be more than happy to show you how to do new tasks. Smile, ask kindly, and follow-up with probing questions until you’ve solidified your understanding. Also, please, please, please remember their names. If you have to ask a second time, that’s okay, but do your best to associate their names with people or places you know; then, make sure to thank them. Most people respond positively to charismatic individuals, so ask kindly and show appreciation.
If you have a lot of contacts at work, it will make you a person of interest to your employer. No one wants to fire the person who gets along with everyone. Being good at your job is a bonus, but the mediocre employee who gets along with others is worth more than an irksome busy bee.
Maintaining your reputation
Once you’ve comfortably positioned yourself, you’ll need to maintain footing. Showing up on time is ninety percent of the battle, the other ten percent comes from being respectful and doing your work. Don’t be that asshole that does the bare minimum. Work ethic alone can get you ahead in life. If you give 110% in everything you do, you will be appreciated by your peers. Then, when shit hits the fan, and you need to take a “sick” day or show up late, your history of great performance will serve as a safeguard. Never break the trust of your co-workers. Surround yourself with advocates, and keep an eye out for envious individuals.
Avoid the water cooler talks. Whenever associates started gossiping at Abercrombie and Fitch, I would remove myself from the conversation. These back-channel dialogues lack context, and will unfairly shape your perceptions. I was a manager at A&F, so I had an obligation to remain impartial to all employees.
Maintain a positive outlook. Every job will have its pros and cons, and a fair amount of monotony. Use your free time on side projects (e.g. a blog) or learn something new.
Thanks for reading! Visit my contact page if you are interested in one-on-one coaching. Also, don’t be afraid to send me an email at [email protected] for any private content or comments.