Gunning for a raise or promotion? Better start making nice with your coworkers.
People who initiate friendships at work, offer their colleagues help and engage with office mates at social events are 40 percent more likely to get a promotion, according to a 2011 study by Shawn Achor, a lecturer on psychology at Harvard University and author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.
While skills, experience and results delivered are obviously factors in career advancement, one’s likeability is also a key component of workplace success. If you’re too competitive (or too much of a brown-noser), you can alienate the very coworkers who could be crucial to your success. After all, bosses don’t want to promote people who are disliked around the office.
Even if you’re not hanging out during non-office hours, you’re probably spending more time with your colleagues than with your non-work pals. So building relationships may be one reason that 30 percent of those polled by Monster said that friendships make work a lot more pleasant.
Follow these steps to win over your boss and your colleagues:
1. Let your guard down.
If you’re new at work, you’ll earn the respect of longstanding employees simply by asking for help. “Go to seasoned colleagues for advice and they’ll be more married to your success,” says William Arruda, co-author of Ditch, Dare, Do: 3D Personal Branding for Executives.
Often younger workers are afraid to show vulnerability, but it’s OK to admit you don’t have certain experience. “It doesn’t make you appear weak, it makes you appear like you’re trying to improve yourself,” says Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers., a New York-based career-search consulting firm. That’s something every boss likes to see.
2. Celebrate others’ success.
CEOs and managers appreciate employees who value and recognize hard work, so you should publicly congratulate your coworkers on a job well done when appropriate. The gesture is most effective when the accomplishment benefits the whole team – that way everyone can appreciate the praise.
Make the acknowledgment at a group meeting or through an email that loops in your boss. If your company permits, also tap social media. A congratulatory Tweet LinkedIn post or the like can increase the chance of reciprocity when you meet your own goals, says Nancy Ancowitz, a business communication coach and author of Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead.
3. Find common interests, but don’t fake them.
Bonding with your boss is key, but you can’t possibly share every interest with him or her, says Peggy Klaus, an executive coach and author of The Hard Truth About Soft Skills: Workplace Lessons Smart People Wish They’d Learned Sooner. Workers often try too hard to tailor their pastimes to their manager’s, which can make them appear superficial to others around them.
The same applies to dealing with coworkers. If you genuinely don’t have much in common, small talk about things like the weather or your weekend are better than pretending you’re into something you’re not.
4. Steer clear of gossip.
Commiserating with coworkers (occasionally) about a tough project or a long day is fine, but don’t let complaints get personal. When coworkers start venting about the boss, steer the conversation to another subject. “Rather than joining in, acknowledge their concern, but then move on with a positive note like, ‘Ob, Bob was really frustrated that day. But I’m really excited about our new client,’” says Hallie Crawford, a career coach and founder of the Atlanta-based company Create Your Career Path.
On the other hand, if you’re in charge and you hear about genuine work-based concerns that need to be addressed for the team to be more productive or efficient, you’ll need to handle those issues in a deft and decisive manner with the right parties.
5. Resolve issues with coworkers carefully.
Mishandling a disagreement with a colleague can have long-term consequences. To avoid damaging the relationship, try to work things out with the person privately. Acknowledge your coworker’s point of view before automatically dismissing it. If you can’t come to an agreement, be up front about bringing the issue to your boss. “Tell them you’d like to bring in a second opinion and ask the person to go with you to talk to your boss,” Safani says, adding a joint meeting displays respect for the person’s opinion and establishes a foundation for open communication in the future.
For a smooth resolution, be prepared to propose options to your boss on how to solve the problem. “Don’t just dump the issue in your boss’s lap,” as your manager’s time is limited, says Jim Warner, co-author of The Drama-Free Office: A Guide to Healthy Collaboration with Your Team, Coworkers, and Boss.
6. Don’t disappear after a promotion.
Climbing the corporate ladder is about managing relationships both above and below your current rung. So even after you’ve moved up (or moved on to another job), it’s smart to reach out to your former peers to grab lunch or a few drinks after work once in a while. Coworkers of various levels can be instrumental in your career years down the road.
“People don’t think about the longevity of some of these relationships,” Arruda says. “You could have a relationship with a coworker longer than you have a relationship with your boss.”