Being a great co-worker has an enormous amount of overlap with being a great human.
It’s often as simple as treating your co-workers with respect and making the people around you feel valued. Not only will your colleagues likely reciprocate your respect, but your efforts can help infuse the entire workplace with a positive sense of community.
“Look at the bigger picture and try to create positive interactions so that people will want to support you just like you support them,” said Ben Dattner, Ph.D., an executive coach and organizational development consultant. Here are a few ways to become a great co-worker:
Check in with colleagues
Promoting a sense of belonging within the workplace is often as simple as asking co-workers how they’re doing.
The EY Belonging Barometer study, which surveyed more than 1,000 employed American adults, found that “39% of respondents say that when colleagues check in with them about how they are doing, both personally and professionally, they feel the greatest sense of belonging at work.”
Checking in can help establish connections with colleagues and communicate that you value and care about them. Just make sure to approach co-workers from a place of authentic curiosity to avoid forced interactions. For example, a simple “How are you doing?” or “How can I support you right now?” when you run into a colleague in the kitchen or common area works well.
Share credit and blame
As Dattner wrote in his book Credit and Blame at Work, if you listen in on any given conversation between two colleagues in which someone is complaining about his or her job, you’ll find the discussion almost inevitably involves outrage about not getting fairly credited or resentment about getting unfairly blamed.
The cycle of blame is contagious, but you can help break it by owning up to failings and generously sharing credit with colleagues.
Because most of us overestimate our contributions and underestimate the contributions of others, Dattner said it can sometimes be helpful to err on the side of sharing slightly more credit than you think a co-worker might be due.
“It’s likely that the other person deserves more credit than we are inclined to give him; and even if he doesn’t, sharing more credit with him may just be the first positive move that encourages him to reciprocate by sharing more credit with us,” Dattner wrote in Credit and Blame at Work. “Just as there can be financial ‘credit crunches’ that slow down the economy, there can be credit crises in the workplace that undermine trust and collaboration.”
Give genuine praise
The opposite of a culture of blame is a culture of praise, one in which employees never shy away from an opportunity to commend or thank their colleagues for the work they do.
When you give genuine compliments to your co-workers — whether it’s congratulating them on a great presentation, recognizing their efforts in keeping common areas clean, or thanking them for their helpful feedback on a project — they will feel seen and are more likely to see you in a positive light.
“Even in a situation with a difficult colleague or boss, try to find something that person is doing that you appreciate or admire, and let him know, in a genuine way, that you credit his talents,” Dattner wrote. “Confirming people’s hopes about themselves is a far better influence strategy than confirming their fears.”
Respect your co-workers
One of the best ways to show co-workers respect is by not wasting their time. In practice, that can mean keeping emails short and to-the-point, making an effort to figure out problems on your own before seeking assistance, and helping meetings stay focused and productive.
You can also show respect in the way you disagree with co-workers.
“Try to convey that you’re on the same team and you have the same goals, and try problem-solving with them rather than being adversarial or opposed to them,” Dattner said. “It’s one thing to say, ‘That’s a dumb idea,’ and it’s another thing to say, ‘Here’s what I think is a better way to achieve that goal.’ Don’t make people feel disrespected.”