Appreciating Co-Workers


May the 16th isn’t, “Co-worker Appreciation Day”. Come to think of it I don’t know that there is such a day, although if there is I’m confident someone will point it out to me. Good thing actually in my opinion; I mean do we really need a day to remind us to appreciate the good in those we work alongside throughout the year?

Maybe the answer to that question is yes. I mean we have a day for Administrative Professionals called Secretaries’ day in some jurisdictions. That’s often when the various Supervisors in organizations get the Administrative team members out for lunch in our organization and an email goes out reminding us all to show some gratitude for the support we receive.

Seems to me that real gratitude should come from people without reminding or prompting, and it should come throughout the year not just on a specific day on a calendar. However, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, it’s a day of celebration and I’m certainly not going to suggest we abolish any of these. Some people do need a reminder to say thanks, whether it’s for a parent or those in the workplace.

I wonder though if we do enough of a good job thanking those we work with for being the people they are; for making our own workplaces more enjoyable places to work. Our co-workers do make our places of employment more enjoyable don’t they? If you can’t think of anyone where you work who deserves a word of thanks, could be its high time you moved on. Good co-workers are first and foremost good people and good people are a treasure to surround yourself by.

It’s these people who ask how your day is going, who mean it when they say you seem different from your normal self and ask if there’s anything wrong or something they can do. These are the ones that celebrate your birthday, tell you to go easy on the days you’re not at your best, and cover for you as best they can when you’re away. If you’re lucky, you come back after vacations to find less work on your plate than you might have otherwise accumulated.

Your co-workers are the ones who support you and compliment you on the quality of work you do. Count yourself fortunate if you share your personal workspace with someone who you see as integral to influencing the kind of worker you’ve become. They might mentor you officially or not, but the way they go about their business surely rubs off on you to a lesser or greater degree. When it’s them on their holiday, doesn’t your work area miss them? Isn’t there a big part of you that truly hopes that they are really enjoying their time no matter what it is they are doing? You know how much they put in when at work and so you wish them sunshine, good weather, lots of reasons to smile and laugh. Most of all you hope they come back feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and you’re one of the first to ask how they enjoyed the time off.

If you haven’t really given much thought to the one who shares your space, just imagine walking in and learning they or you will be relocating to another part of the building. Even if you enjoy change and the idea of working in close proximity with someone new is appealing, hopefully part of you acknowledges the good times you’ve shared together and is grateful for those moments.

In my case, I’ve shared my two-person office with the same person for 10 years now. Wow! 10 years! I’m very appreciative of him and know the positive impact we have on each other’s performance. Even when we swing our chairs around and talk of our families, sports news, plans for the weekend or vacation plans, it’s all productive time. It might not seem productive of course to others, but building and nurturing a relationship with someone you spend this much time with has to improve your working relationship tremendously.

The time will eventually come when one or both of us moves on, either to another place in the office we work at or to another site completely. While the change will be good and the new office mate welcomed, the relationship we have together will never be truly replicated. I’m grateful in the here and now and I know he is too; and that’s significant to note.

The others I work with, be they on my team, at reception, my Supervisor, those on other teams of course are all important too. If I were building my, ‘dream team’, I’d count many of these people among those I want on board. Of course it’s not that every single person has to be a, ‘best buddy’ or a close working associate. I imagine I’m not on every single co-worker’s list if they assembled their dream team either. That would be unreasonable to expect. However, what is important is that each person get their due of credit for what they do contribute.

Consider thanking those you work with not just for a day but each day. What might you point out that you appreciate in your co-workers. Could be the word of thanks you pass on is just what they needed to hear. These people you work alongside make your workplace what it is.

Co-Workers; How You Make It Work


Whether you work at a small, medium or large-scale business, there’s likely going to be some co-worker(s) that you prefer working with over others. If we’re honest, we might even go so far as to say there are some that are positively annoying; possibly some that are…well…just the kind that subtract rather than add to your day.

It’s kind of interesting when you compare how people go about dating and finding that one perfect partner in life vs. how we end up working with one person 35, 40 or more hours in close proximity with. I mean when it comes to dating, we might go about it differently, but typically we’re drawn to someone, feel excited when they are around, take great pains to look and act in ways we hope they’ll find desirable. We look forward with anticipation to seeing them and our imaginations play out how our time together might go. We don’t in short just choose anybody; we see them, we learn about them and share with them who we are, what makes us the person we are and we make all kinds of compromises putting their needs ahead of our own because we really do want their happiness as much as our own.

Our work colleagues on the other hand; the ones we will spend years with day in, day out? It’s not us at all that does the match-making. The Manager doing the hiring decides. As much as they are looking for skills, experience, personality, attitude, education etc., they are also thinking about the chemistry that will occur if you’re added to the team. They know the personalities currently in the workplace; they muse over where they’ll sit you or who they’ll shuffle around in order to get you working next to whoever they are thinking of.

Can you imagine just for a moment being hired and then told you were going to meet various employees over the course of the coming week and at the end of that week you were to tell the employer who you’d prefer to share your work area with? Of course it would go both ways; everyone you meet will be sizing you up too and deciding whether you’ll be a good work partner for them.

Sounds odd doesn’t it? Or what if the employer said you work next to someone for a year and at the end of the year everybody in the organization moves and works next to someone else. Imagine if that happened in our personal lives; we changed partners at the end of December every year. Yeah if that was a great idea it would have caught on with broad appeal by now and it hasn’t. Stop thinking this would solve your current situation!

Being honest with yourself – and no one can hear your private thoughts – there’s bound to be some people where you work that you are naturally more drawn to than others. Even if you are the kind of person who gets along with everybody and tries your best to see everyone equally, I’m betting that given a choice, you’d work best with some folks and maybe go so far as to replace a few with others. If not, good for you, you’re working with your personal dream team!

Do you like sitting next to the employee who has 39 small stuffed animals in their cubicle? Do you sit next to the heavy breather, the person who sneezes and buildings across the street shake with the noise? What about the person who makes more personal calls than work calls? Or maybe it’s you with the stuffed animals and you think the person next to you should lighten up a little and be less stuffy themselves? There’s irony for you!

Do you care who you work alongside at all or are people interchangeable and your own work performance isn’t impacted one way or the other? I believe we are affected by those we work closest to and we of course have an impact on how they work too.

I’ve now worked for 9 years sharing an office with the same person. We know each others’ styles, respect each others space, give each other the courtesy of privacy or at least ask if they wish privacy from time to time. Some days I spend more hours together with my colleague than I do with my wife. Now sure at any time I suppose either one of us could go in and say to our boss that we wanted a shift in scenery if possible. I’ve heard co-workers in the past say they absolutely could not work with a person they were assigned to and stopped just short of demanding a move; then were delighted to change their location as soon as they could. Not always possible however to do so.

The thing is we have to get along and that means making the effort to be someone others can get along with too. This is how good partnerships and relationships go; thinking about others needs in addition to our own. It’s up to you and them to put in enough effort to make things work for both of you. Problems generally arise when someone is making an effort and someone isn’t; not caring to invest in the relationship.

Then again, if you choose not to invest in work relationships, you could consider a home-based business!

Anticipating A New Team Member


At the present moment, the team I’m working on is down a person since last week. There was an unexpected departure when someone resigned their position and so as of now those remaining on the team are stretching ourselves a little bit more than usual until a replacement is hired.

I find myself kind of thinking of this process like an expectant father actually; wondering what kind of person will become part of the family. Some parents hope for a boy or a girl, some start imagining what it will be like to help them grow, anticipating the person they’ll grow into and eventually become.

Likewise, I find myself wondering about this future addition. In all likelihood in this case, the individual will be hired internally as the posting will go this way first and being a unionized environment, I would be shocked if one of my peers doesn’t make the decision to slide from another team to this team. Failing this, there is the strong possibility of another internal employee from another location who will interview and possibly take the job. This is the way things work in unionized organizations, and with every single move, another opening occurs, and someone else takes on a different job until eventually all the internal movement is over and some position goes external.

I find like I said that I’m imagining the kind of person who will join us. Do you do the same when an opening comes up in your workplace? You know, picturing perhaps not the actual person but rather, the desired qualities you’d like to see in your new co-worker?

In my musings, I’d like to see someone who is mature, flexible, creative, genuinely invested in serving those who use our services, and of course dependable. The single most important thing I suppose is someone who is enthusiastic in their work; a genuine team player who understands the inter-dependency of being on a team.

Our team for example, provides front-line employment workshops as well as staffs a drop-in Employment Resource Centre. If you’re not running a workshop, you’re either planning one in the future, meeting with people who have just completed one, or you’re taking your turn helping those in the Centre who drop-in for any number of reasons.

At any time when someone is not available, the rest of the team is required to stretch and determine how best to cover off on whatever role the missing person had for the day. It’s not like we just let that person’s work pile up and it awaits them upon their return.

It’s for this reason that being here is essential. Being ‘here’ by the way has a double meaning; you need to be both physically present and mentally invested; in my opinion anyhow. For me personally, I enjoy working with others who are genuinely focused on – dare I say it – the same things I find important; namely those we serve. How we do that can be different of course but, I do think it’s natural to want to work with people who are all pulling in the same direction.

One thing I also look forward to in a new teammate is someone who brings ideas. Those ideas may stir things up, may initially seem unworkable or too ambitious, but I do enjoy the mental stimulation of entertaining some thought I hadn’t previously considered and hearing it defended or at least explored. This is one way I grow.

The team I’m part of has some pretty strong personalities; I being one of them. That we have at least a few of these types shouldn’t come as a surprise; we’ve got talented people who have had to develop strategies for dealing with a huge range of people that we work with daily. Striving to establish and nurture a working relationship with those we serve is challenging but oh so stimulating!

Now if you were making out your lineup for your own, ‘dream team’, who would you want to work alongside? This is actually a really good exercise to undertake and I highly recommend you do it for real. Taking some time to really think about it, who would you include and why? Who would you remove from your team that you currently count as a team member and why would you remove them?

When you think about people that you work with at present that you’d like to replace with someone else, commit yourself to saying why. Is it just a chemistry thing (“we don’t see eye to eye”) or are there specific actions they take or don’t take that either go against what you’d do personally or what your organization expects. These are important things to think about. Sometimes this can lead to a discussion with that person or have you re-assess your own view of how you see them.

Remember that in sports when some athlete is asked to put together his or her dream team, they pick players from different teams and yet they are still happy to play alongside those on their team they didn’t select. The relationships trump the ‘dream team’ exercise. Likewise you should be able to pick your ‘dream team’ and not insult or feel bad about not including current team members.

I’m looking forward to some future announcement identifying the new arrival. Their arrival will be welcome news for our team, and I’m excited!

Team Player: How To Be One And Succeed At The Interview


Look closely at a lot of the job postings these days and you’ll see, ‘team player’ as one of the key requirements. Just because you’ve worked with a group of people under a Supervisor before does not however mean you’re a great team player; nor even a good one.

It’s important to know exactly what being a good team player requires, because once you do, you’ll be far better equipped to respond to an interviewer intelligently when they ask you to provide an example of your experience working on a team.

First and foremost, when you are required to work on a team, everything you do is less about you and more about the team. As a member of that team, you have an important role to play, but it’s more than just doing your piece in isolation and calling yourself a team member. Get used to the concept of inter-dependence; relying on each other to accomplish tasks, pulling your own weight on projects and offering your help when appropriate to those you work with. Inter-dependence works both ways too; you’ll find there are times when you should call on others to help you out too.

Depending on the job you are in and the work to be done, you may find that being a part of a team requires collaborating not only on producing goods and services but in the delivery to your customers and clientsc. Having a unified strategy in this regard ensures that the experience of your end-users is similar no matter who puts the product or service into their hands. So whether it’s service like home health care and childcare or products like electronics or clothes, how your target audience experiences the delivery should be similar no matter whom they deal with on your team. Allowing for differences in personality of course, I refer to information delivery such as following best practices, company policies, information sharing etc.

One of the best things you can do for your teammates in order to be respected starts with showing up for work. When you are part of a team and you’re not present, you’re lack of attendance requires that others cover in your absence the work you would normally do. People can be absent for any number of reasons; personal illness, family commitments, special projects, vacations, committee meetings, training etc. The bottom line is that your absence on the team means others are doing your work, or your work is adjusted so that less is expected of you – and that means your production drops in the short-term. It’s one thing for a team member to be off on vacation – because every member will also enjoy their vacation time – but it’s another to be off frequently for personal reasons. The last thing you want is to create in the minds of your co-workers that you can’t be relied upon.

One key element of working cooperatively and productively as a team player is to give when its least expected. If you know someone needs to dash out for an appointment right at the end of the day, maybe you offer to be on the sales floor and stay the few extra minutes if a customer is shopping just past closing time. That extra 5 minutes you give will please the customer, could result in income for the store, and will garner some appreciation for you as a co-worker with the person you permit to leave on time instead of being held up. While you don’t do it for personal gain, you hope that the goodwill you’ve shown comes back to you in the future sometime when the situation is reversed.

Good teammates look out for each other. When a colleague is slightly under the weather, distracted by a personal matter, just not at their best, teammates pull together; offering whatever support and help they can depending on the workplace.

You’ll find that really good teammates give credit where credit is due too. Whether it’s an idea, a specialized skill, personal attributes etc. each member brings things to the team that make the team stronger and add to the service or products you produce. A good teammate will ensure that individual members get credit when they are responsible for some creativity, innovation, performing extra work or solving a problem that allowed the group to succeed.

Some people have famously said that there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’, but I believe within each successful team there are several individuals without whom the team wouldn’t exist at all. If each team member is to feel proud of their accomplishments as a team, they must feel personal pride in what they’ve contributed as an individual.

You can predict the likelihood of being asked the teamwork question in an interview by researching both the job posting and the nature of the work to be done. If the job posting has teamwork as a key job requirement, expect the question.

It’s important to share an example of your teamwork where you played an important part, yet be sure not to take all the credit in your answer. What had to be done, what challenge arose and what did you do that contributed to the overall success of the team? Share some specific example, not a vague generalization. Highlight the part you played however, as you’re the one applying for the job not your entire team.

Why Teamwork Is Highly Coveted


One of the most coveted qualities employers seek in new applicants is teamwork. Look at a wall of job postings and this word keeps showing up with a high degree of regularity. What is it about teamwork that makes it so popular and what is an employer driving at when they say the ability to work as part of a team is a requirement?

Well for starters, when you work in an environment that demands teamwork, you know right off the bat the position has a fair amount of interaction with and co-dependency on other people. In other words, in order to successful produce products and/or services; you have to work cooperatively and productively on a regular basis with other people. If you aren’t really a people person, you’ll find that having to use your interpersonal skills on a daily basis may be your downfall. Could be you’ll either not be successful, or the personal strain of having to stretch yourself all the time to be communicative and dependent on others isn’t something you’ll be able to keep up over a long period time.

Those who prefer to work alone aren’t always anti-people; they just find relying on others to do their jobs isn’t something they ideally prefer. Let’s face it, you might prefer to work at a job where you are totally responsible for the end product and you can control the effort and quality that goes into the product 100%. You don’t have to rely on someone else at all, and you might feel that the more people who have their hands in the process increases the chances that someone somewhere will perform their job with less commitment, effort and attention to detail than you would.

Teamwork though, really is all about trusting in other people; and they trusting in you, to perform the work assigned with accountability and responsibility.  There’s more to real teamwork however than just this. Teamwork may require those on the team occasionally picking up the workload for someone on the team who is not performing at their best, or who is off work entirely until management replaces that person with someone new. It can mean adapting to the methods others use, trying others ideas, compromising your own way of doing things for the greater good, listening to ideas of others you initially dismiss as less than favourable. Teamwork – not to sound trite – means working as a team.

When a team is working harmoniously together and producing services and goods at high efficiency, teamwork is something to be touted, “Look at good we are when it comes to working together!” However, when one or two members are distracted, perform poorly, get moody, and appear to be shirking their responsibility, teamwork gets tested in other ways.  Not everyone on the team will react to the person who is perceived to be a poor team player in the same fashion.

First of all is it your place to reprimand or correct a fellow worker who is your peer or is this the position of the Supervisor, Project Lead, Director or Manager? Would the person you talked to ask you, “Who made you my boss?” Knowing what the correct procedure is when teamwork breaks down is just as critical as being an effective team player. Maybe your role is indeed to talk directly to your team member and find out what’s behind their drop in quality. Or maybe you’re supposed to bring concerns to your mutual Supervisor and let her or him handle things. Finding out which is expected in your workplace is good information.

What makes true teamwork difficult for many is the variance in standards people hold as their values. If you work hard at producing the absolute best product or service you can, you’ll struggle knowing that someone else may have a very different, (and lower) personal standard that they work to. ‘Do enough to get by’ might be their mantra, or because of their lack of life experience or maturity, they may THINK they are performing wonderfully, but it’s still not up to your standards of excellence.  From their point of view, you might be viewed as a perfectionist, an overachiever; your work ethic good for you but not to be imposed on them. Now what would you do if you were them and it was someone else with these seemingly impossible high standards?

In some workplaces, a team may not necessarily interact with everyone else on the team in a given day. While a production line relies on someone to perform work in a step-by-step order in order for a final product to be completed, this isn’t always the case with teamwork. Other teams may have members that work independently to complete their work, but the individual members are collectively referred to as a team, and when one goes down or is absent, the team is left to work out how the person’s absence will be covered in the short-term. All may go on fine in such a situation until each member is called upon to do more than their share for an extended period.

You can see why the ability to work as part of a productive team is so highly coveted by employers. Those who are successful in convincing interviewers that they have what it takes, do so using specific examples from their past that illustrate their ability to work well with others.