8 Subtle Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Work Relationships

Jul 28, 2014
6 Min Read

Do you know your colleague’s children’s names? If you want her to help you later on, you might want to memorize them.

The devil is in the details. While it’s of course important to focus on the big ticket items, small, everyday interactions added together can make or break a professional relationship. Here are eight things you might be doing without thinking. Stop today!

Forgetting (or never learning) personal details

When someone tells you their name, commit to it memory and use it in your next conversation. Make a note of your colleagues’ children and their names and ages. Wish your colleagues a happy birthday, and if they tell you they have something important coming up in their lives, remember that and ask about it later. Failure to do these things will keep your relationship at a purely business level, which won’t provide the rapport you need for your colleague to go the extra mile for you.

Ignoring a non-urgent request

When a colleague sends you an email, make a habit of responding within 24 hours. Even if the message isn’t a priority for you, it may be for them. Don’t be one of those people who is “bad about email.” While you may not mean any harm, this will eventually result in a loss of trust and respect as well as a vicious cycle of inattention (i.e. you ignore me, I ignore you back).

Forcing other people to ask you about status

Do your boss and colleagues have to track you down in person or nag you repeatedly about the projects you own? Even if your results are stellar and everything turns out fine in the end, giving your colleagues a few extra gray hairs wondering what the bleep is going on will not do much for your work relationships. Instead, be proactive about providing status in the manner in which your colleagues would like to receive it.

Doing something else while having a conversation

Multi-tasking is a fact of life in the twenty-first century. But people who can’t pry their eyes away from their smartphones for 5 minutes to have a meaningful interaction with another human will also not be able to count on the benefits of valuable relationships. Make sure you are both physically and mentally present when a colleague comes into your office.

Rushing people out the door

I get it, you are busy. So is everyone. However, it leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths when you appear stressed and agitated in every interaction and act like you can’t wait to get rid of them. If someone contacts you or comes by and you genuinely don’t have any time to talk, say so upfront. Be kind about it and ask when you can catch up with them later.

Just expecting people to do their jobs

There are certain people who believe that others don’t need to be thanked for doing what they get paid for. I guarantee those folks don’t have their colleagues going to bat for them in a crisis. Remember that your colleagues have the option of working somewhere else and show them appreciation when they perform with excellence.

Inviting only certain colleagues out for drinks or to your house

You will, of course, like some colleagues better than others. However, you should make sure you’re not unintentionally excluding others. Don’t, for instance, invite half your team to your wedding. You’re just asking for the other half to feel hurt or offended, and those negative emotions are bound to spill into your work relationships.

Coming into work with a contagious illness

A cold is one thing. But when you have a stomach virus, pink eye, or anything with a fever, stay home. Your colleagues do not appreciate you hacking up a lung in their presence and spreading the bug all over the office. You may think no one cares if you’re sick, as long as you’re productive. For the millions of germaphobes out there, that’s not the case. Be considerate to them and they’ll want to be considerate back.

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