Tuesday Tip: Your Workplace Is a Team, Contribute as a Part of It
By Yehudit Garmaise
Most working people want to make a splash, contribute their skills and talents, and help their companies to succeed.
Smart, talented people can be held back professionally, however, if they don’t understand the nuances of working as one small part of a larger team.
Even independent-minded entrepreneurs and creative people who seek to strike out on their own will soon find that they have clients, colleagues, and customers who require plenty of flexibility and the ability to compromise.
By sticking to a few simple guidelines, paycheck-earners can ensure they work with their colleagues like well-oiled machines.
1. Don’t jump to be a revolutionary: Many talented workers have a lot of fresh, new ideas, but before sharing them, employees must strive to understand their workplaces’ specific cultures. Ask a few questions, do your own research, and listen carefully to others at your company. Truly absorbing the unspoken rules of a workplace can take years. Keep notes with your ideas, but only share them if asked directly. Try to only share ideas once to see how they are received. Drop anything that does not receive enthusiastic interest, but keep your ideas recorded for other potential projects.
2. Stay easy to work with: especially when you don’t get your way. Remember that everyone has different and valid perspectives. Unless serious ethical issues persist, let go of everything that bothers you.
3. Adopt the attitude of, “You win some, you lose some.” Respect the company's hierarchy, and never insist on your way as the best possible path. Your way is one of many valid ways. At work, we all paint our little section of a much larger picture.
4. Seek to understand your role in the larger scheme of things: Every worker and person is but one fish in a large sea. Try to let go of your ego. Understand your employer’s larger goals and values besides making money. Ask yourself, “What is most important to my boss?” Then, align your work in the context of that goal. If your employer prides himself on providing a lot of variety, keep that in mind as you go about your job.
5. Show that you are part of the team by acting the part: Make yourself a student of the culture of your workplace. Are your colleagues friendly with each other, or do they just do their work and minimally communicate? Do people eat lunch together, or do they go their separate ways? What kinds of stories do people share? Always avoid topics, such as nuances in views on politics or religion, that have any possibility of being divisive. By carefully tuning into the workplace vibe, employees can better blend in, adopt a team identity, and work successfully with others.
6. Show you are a part of the team by dressing the part: Your experience and referrals may get you noticed, but when you are called in for an interview, making the final cut could come down to whether you nail the specific professional look that is most appropriate for each profession.
After analyzing more than 160,000 freelancers who applied for 63,000 job openings throughout a six-month period, researchers found that profession-appropriate clothing and accessories could give candidates an edge in landing some jobs, as per a report in yesterday's Wall Street Journal.
Job searchers should research in advance whether the typical employee in their chosen fields dress more traditionally, such as bankers, or more casually, such as computer programmers or entrepreneurs. “Little” details like the “right” types of glasses, jackets, or shoes can make job searchers appear as if they would “fit in well with the team.”
7. Avoid conflicts with anyone at all costs. Ensure that all communication is constructive, helpful, positive, professional, and understanding. No matter what your job is, think of yourself as a customer service expert. Nothing bothers you, no matter how much others complain.
8. When faced with opposition, first consider whether the critical, difficult person is expressing any grain of truth. Take in any valid information, but strive to ignore offensive tones and insensitive words. Always keep your sense of humor, and always strive for humility. Don’t take anything personally. Many times, while forces of opposition can be danger signs, those same forces can reveal that you are getting something right. But keep that thought to yourself.
9. Consider your co-workers as teammates and not competitors.
“Never compete with anyone,” said Ruchel Wine, a career coach.
Instead, do your own best work every day. Believe in your unique perspective and what only you can contribute. Sometimes, your work will be more valued than other times. That is fine. Use every day at work to polish your skills and become an expert in your current role. Strive to give something excellent, unique, and special that only you can give.
10. Share positive feedback, team goals, and valuable information. High-performing teams feel supported, appreciated, and well-informed about the company’s goals and mission, says betterup.com. Employees have more energy, focus, and motivation when they best understand their specific roles and contributions to a greater team.
11. Communicate clearly and pleasantly, and don’t be afraid to set boundaries. Be honest about the days and hours you can work, whether you sometimes need a remote option and whether you can travel. Although working involves not being 100% in charge of your own time, many employees will continue to make demands until employees clearly and politely state what does and does not work for them. An overworked, resentful employee does not make for a good team player. Do yourself and everyone else a favor, and just be honest.
12. Take care of yourself when you are not working. Employees who take time for themselves and their families can better commit themselves to their workplaces during the workweek. Family time, sleep, exercise, travel, hobbies, and other interests are all important ways for individuals to make sure their needs are met.
People who take care of themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually on their off time are much better equipped to work for the greater good and take on the world with their teammates during the work day.
13. Stay with it: Many younger people “job-hop” every few years when they see better opportunities or just crave a new environment. However, professionals have a lot to gain by staying put for longer periods of time. Show that you are part of your team by not quitting or expressing dismay when you hit rough patches. Employees who weather more storms learn more and have more time to specialize in their particular skills than those who bail when the going gets rough. Employees who stay long-term can gain a deep and thorough understanding of the businesses for which they work and, therefore, become ripe and possibly ready for higher positions.
14. If you apply for a higher position or salary and don’t get it, possibly you are not ready in terms of your skills or personal growth. Show that you are part of a team when promotions don’t work out by keeping your head down, giving 110% every day, doing your best work, and re-applying in a year or two.
15. Like all simcha, creating happiness at work is part of your own avodah. Cultivate your contentment with your company. No workplace is perfect. Enjoy what you like about it, and ignore the rest.