You spend a large part of your waking life at work. Instead of thinking of it simply as the daily grind, make the most of your day in the office.
Try these 10 tips – not just a survival kit, but ways to help you thrive in the office.
1 Be sociable
An office is like a little community, so why not be a part of it? Research shows that interacting with people and friendly small talk can boost our ability to solve problems. The office kitchen is a good place to start a conversation – take your cue from the office noticeboard.
2 Accept you will have to deal with awkward colleagues
You have to rub shoulders with all sorts at work, and you may not get on with everyone. Try to see beyond the difficult persona to a person’s professional skills. That way you will be able to get the best out of any dealings with them.
3 Stay away from gossip
Tempting though it is to share little bits of personal information about a colleague in what you think is a lighthearted way, this kind of chitchat can lead to situations that are far from amusing. It will only damage your own reputation – in fact serial gossipers can be seen as having less social clout than those who do not gossip.
4 Be consistent
That means following through with your work, meeting deadlines or doing what you said you were going to do. It doesn’t mean being threatening or inflexible – instead colleagues will realise they can rely on you and value you. If you’ve made a mistake, admit it, which will also show that you are consistent.
5 Keep out of office politics
Say you find yourself in a group where someone is trying to run down your boss. What do you do – defend them or join in? Why not steer the conversation to another more neutral subject? For example, ‘Have you seen we’re going to be discussing the new contract with them tomorrow?’
6 Be helpful
If you have a skill – dealing with spreadsheets, or tackling complicated figures – that will help someone, give them a hand. It may even be something as simple as sorting out a jammed printer, or running an errand at lunchtime for a busy colleague: the point is that you don’t stand by while someone struggles. People will reciprocate when you need help.
7 Become a team player
Offices can be competitive places and it’s easy to become focused on getting ahead of everyone else. Collaborative working ignores turf wars and focuses on roles, rather than tasks. There’s a lot to be said for individual effort, but it is teamwork that brings success. So see the bigger picture and learn to play your part in the team.
8 Sharpen your time management
Most of us have worked out a daily office routine – dealing with email, replying to phone calls, writing reports. Effective time management also means doing some advance planning – preparing for peak sales times, or accounting deadlines. You know the quiet and busy periods, and you can schedule and prioritise accordingly.
9 Keep cool about conflict
You are always going to encounter differences of opinion. Maybe you disagree strongly with a colleague about the approach to a certain task. Instead of insisting that your approach is the correct one, explain the reasons for it and encourage your colleague to do the same. Both of you could then get a better idea of each other’s points of view and come to a more reasoned decision.
10 Find a mentor
Some experts say identifying key players – the movers and shakers – can help you make strategic alliances at work. It may be more fruitful to look for role models and mentors – people with skills you admire or those from whom you could learn. As early as the Seventies, research showed that people who had mentors earned more, and at a younger age, than those who did not have a mentor. You can get ahead without jockeying for power.