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10 Tips for a Happier Workplace

You don’t have to be friends with your coworkers, but you do need to be friendly. Read on for fresh ways to make work a kinder, gentler place.

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Give a Happy “Hello!” in the Morning

Do you plod into the office, eyes down, shoulders slumped, and immediately start work? If so, you’re likely to find that coworkers ignore you (at best) or avoid you (at worst). Get into the habit of smiling and greeting your colleagues as you arrive in the morning or begin your shift. It’s really amazing how fast this little courtesy can thaw chilly workplace relations.

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Learn the Art of Small Talk

Ask your coworkers about their interests – their favourite music, movies, and books, as well as their hobbies, suggests Larina Kase, Ph.D., a psychologist at the Center for Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “Showing a genuine interest in them will make them feel comfortable around you,” she says. Once you know what floats their boat, clip items from newspapers or magazines to help start conversations. “John, I saw this article about that singer you like,” or, “Mary, you like to knit, don’t you? I found this great new knitting store not too far from here, and thought of you right away.”

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Ask What They Think

People love to be asked their opinion, so go out of your way to ask, “What do you think belongs in this report?” or, “How do you think I should handle this situation with client X?” Then give the advice giver a sincere thank-you, even if the ideas are less than helpful.

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Sidestep the Gossip Mill

You don’t want anyone talking about you behind your back, right? So return the favour. When a coworker sidles up to you bearing a juicy tidbit of gossip about Betty’s office romance or Bill’s impending firing, respond with, “Really?” and then change the subject or get back to work. If you don’t respond, the gossiper will move on – and you’ll retain the trust and respect of your colleagues.

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Pretend Your Kids are Watching

If dealing with a difficult coworker, this neat little visualization will help you keep a cool head. After all, you’ve taught your children to be mannerly. With them “watching” you, it will be difficult to stoop to the level of your infuriating colleague.

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Ladle Out the Compliments

Did Tom fix the office copier – again? Has the quiet secretary in the cubicle behind you lost 25 pounds? By all means, compliment your coworkers on their achievements – personal or professional. Too often, we focus on what people are doing wrong.

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Return Calls and Emails Promptly

To win friends at work, start with good office etiquette. There’s nothing more frustrating to busy coworkers than to have their emails and phone messages ignored. Your silence doesn’t just make their jobs harder; it also conveys an unpleasant message: You’re unimportant to me.

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Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Don’t withhold credit from deserving coworkers. You’ll alienate them, and they won’t be there for you when you need them (or when they all go out for lunch). Embrace the attitude that we all win together, and let others know when a colleague has done something above and beyond on a project. Also, if someone incorrectly gives you credit and praise, acknowledge the coworker who deserves the accolades.

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For the Boss: Always Work as Hard as Anyone Working for You

Make it clear that you would never ask anyone to do a level of work you wouldn’t be willing to take on yourself.

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Assume the Positive About What You Don’t Know

Funny how a team of workers always think they’re working harder than those yahoos down the hall, and that the bosses are clueless. Don’t subscribe to that kind of toxic thinking, even if it’s rampant. It’s a negative attitude that makes work become miserable. Instead, assume that everyone else is working hard and doing their best, even if you don’t know what their work is. You should believe both in the work you’re doing and the organization you’re doing it for. If you can’t, perhaps it’s time to move on.