You’ve heard over and over again that first impressions matter. As you begin to look for summer internships or your first “real” job, think hard about how to get along with your coworkers. As you enter the workforce, you may find that organizations value collegiality over productivity or extreme competence. You can do a lot of little things to prolong that good first impression and convince your employer that you’re someone who contributes to a positive work environment. That’s the kind of person an employer is more likely to offer a job or a promotion.
Address People by Name
If you’re lousy at remembering names, find a technique that helps you. Greeting people cheerfully by name is an important way to start your day—and theirs.
Be Punctual and Responsive
Arrive to work on time, and answer your e-mails and return calls promptly. Empty your voicemail daily. Deliver what you promise—if something unexpected comes up and you’re going to miss a deadline, be upfront about it. Explain the situation to a supervisor and ask for guidance.
Avoid Office Gossip
Deflect gossip and don’t participate in it—that never ends well. Be aware of TMI. Oversharing is an office no-no. If you have a personal or health issue that will affect your work, speak to your supervisor about it privately.
Remember: Little Things Matter
Be the person who makes a new pot of coffee if the carafe is empty. The same goes for replenishing the paper in the copy machine and refilling the staplers. And for heaven’s sake, don’t steal stuff from the supply room—not even a pen. Seriously.
Never Take Credit for Someone Else’s Work
Do we really have to say this? You might see some short-term benefits to looking like the hero who figured out how to keep a client, reduce costs, or market a new product, but stealing someone else’s thunder will quickly get you a bad reputation. Share the credit, and earn the love.
Be Nice to Difficult People
There’s always that person who seems perpetually grumpy or put-upon. Stay cool and be kind. One good tip for how to get along with your coworkers in difficult situations is to imagine setting an example for a younger sibling—would you want your little brother or sister to see how you behave when Mr. or Ms. Complainypants makes your day a little tougher? Find a way to exit toxic conversations, and stay positive.
Keep Your Hands to Yourself, and Leave Other People’s Stuff Alone
It doesn’t matter if that salad has been in the fridge all week—if it’s not yours, don’t touch it. Stick to handshakes, even in a hugging kind of workplace—if you’re not comfortable hugging everyone, then don’t hug anyone.
Learning how to get along with your coworkers is of utmost importance because building and maintaining your reputation is critical to your success. Work to become known as a dependable, competent, helpful, and positive coworker from your first internship until the day you retire.