According to the Washington Post, the average professional in the United States will spend 47 hours a week at work. This means that most people see their coworkers more than they see their families during any given workweek. With this much time in proximity to one another, the opportunities to develop bonds and friendships with your coworkers is ample. Just as available, however, are the possibilities to fall victim to workplace drama.
Failing to expertly navigate the rumor mill that is corporate America can lead to alienating coworkers, derailing your career path and sometimes even, losing your job!
So how do you avoid the “he said she said” of the office? You cannot be an effective networker if you never reach out to your coworkers so the “Imma just sit here and mind my own damn business” approach may not be the best option. For those interested in being a social and productive member of the workforce without putting yourself at risk for professional sabotage, these next five steps are for you:
Meet Your Coworkers
You’re busy. You got hired yesterday and The Man dumped a quarter’s worth of paperwork on your desk and told you to get started. The temptation to put your head down and get to work without meeting anyone outside of your immediate vicinity is high. Don’t succumb to it.
As the new guy or gal at a company, please believe that people are talking about you - from your timeliness and the amount of money that you make, to your edges and how tidy your desk is. Be in control of your first impression by making it a goal to meet everyone you work with during the first two weeks of work. It takes all of 5 minutes to engage someone about their background and their goals for the future. The last thing you want is for someone to know you only based on hearsay.
Learn to perfect a skill that is in woefully short supply: listening. This is an excellent way to avoid the pitfalls of professional gossip, while maintaining a healthy social presence at work. Be someone who people feel comfortable speaking to. Try not to judge or interrupt but instead seek to genuinely understand and empathize with the other person.
This does not mean that you ask everyone about their private business, but when someone reaches out, take an interest in them. Try to focus your questions and comments on their lives outside of work. This will avoid situations where you feel pressured to comment on a coworker, and will increase the value of your relationship past the “strictly work friend” stage.
Provide Positive Comments
Being a great listener doesn’t mean you cannot speak; don’t be a mute. Between “the strong silent type” and “that weird creep that just nods and smiles”, your silence will likely inspire the latter to emerge in the minds of your peers. So talk! Share your background and connect with people but do not bring your outside current drama into the office.
Give genuine compliments and make sure you spread the love. It is easy to get sucked into a clique of close work friends and while you will naturally gravitate toward certain people, make sure to speak to people outside of your group and never alienate your coworkers.
Chances are, you will experience the same foolishness you hear other people complaining about at work. After Chad rubs his promotion in your face for the third time, it may be hard to stop yourself from whispering to coworkers about his deteriorating marriage, cocaine addiction and stank breath. But you must resist.
Whether it’s a family member, a close friend or a partner; find someone outside of your professional life to vent to about annoying coworkers.
Most importantly - Do your job!
Making friends wasn’t the reason you were hired. You can be the coolest person in the world, but if you aren’t doing your job with urgency and excellence, you won’t get far. Be doggedly committed to the one thing that nobody can dispute: production.
Armed with these five tips, you will be an unstoppable whirlwind of social and professional achievement in the workplace. So have fun at work, be yourself and show your personality! But always remember that these ain’t your friends from your college dorm and their opinions and thoughts of you may have widespread effects on your career for years to come. Good luck!