How to and NOT to connect with coworkers
When you’re starting a new job at a new company, you typically will introduce yourself to your current colleagues. During your first few weeks on the job, you try to connect with the people you meet, on some level, and try to get to know them better. Your hope is to lay a good foundation for you to build relationships with your colleagues.
At some point, we’ve all been the new kid on the block and have needed to make the initial effort to introduce and connect with colleagues. At times (and depending on the work environment you’re entering), it may take some more effort on your part to establish those connections. It’s not always easy and doesn’t necessarily happen quickly either. It’s unfortunate to imagine your work situation like the one from the beginning of Mean Girls, where newly moved from South Africa, Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan), eats lunch in the bathroom on the toilet all alone, but it happens, and many people feel this way especially entering new work environments. Having said that, it’s important to know some ways to foster these connections. I’ll elaborate on those tips further in the post.
As there’s things you should do to make connections, there’s also things you should not do. If the little devil on your shoulder is telling you to do something or say something to a coworker, chances are, you probably shouldn’t do or say it. With experience, you learn to listen to the angel on the other side and figure out what not to do when trying to connect with your coworkers. I’ll outline some examples of what I’ve learned examples below.
How to connect with your coworkers -
Ask them to go out to lunch - Get offsite and go have lunch with your coworker, who you’re trying to connect with. The reason to go off site is for you to get out of the office, put the work aside for a moment, and try to cultivate a relationship. During your lunch, you should ask get-to-know questions like you’re trying to get to know a new friend.
Ask them about their kids or their hobbies - People usually care about their kids and their passions they partake in outside of work. You should make efforts to ask your colleagues about things they care about beyond work. Your coworkers will appreciate you being observant to their interests and on top of that, asking them about their hobbies.
Talk about how they found the company you’re working at together - You both work together - there’s a similarity right there. What brought them to your current company? What drew them into it?
Get to know their story and how they ended up doing their current job - Everyone’s got a story, right? That means your coworkers do too. How did they end up where they are today? Ask about where they grew up, where they got their education, what their first job was, and how they ended up in your industry. In asking these questions, you show genuine interest in understanding your coworkers’ stories.
Find out what’s important to them - It can benefit you to acknowledge this quality early on because you will understand what motivates your colleagues. Be observant - why do they work? Do they enjoy the industry? Do they like the money? Do they do the work to support their famiIy? Do they like to be challenged? You want to keep what’s important to them in the back of your mind because when working together, you will know what encourages them to do their best in their work.
How not to connect with your coworkers -
Don’t engage in gossip - If your colleagues are talking about another coworker (especially in an unprofessional or rude way), don’t partake in the conversation, don’t egg on the situation, and don’t ask any questions to why your colleagues feel that way. There is no good that can come out of it. By engaging yourself in the discussion, you automatically become involved. You never want to be seen as a gossiper at any point in your career. If you’re ever in a scenario where your coworkers are gossiping, you should refrain from engaging or withdraw from the situation.
Don’t use employees’ situations as points of conversations - If you learn from someone else you have a coworker who is looking for other job opportunities or have a colleague who is going through a personal situation, don’t be the messenger of that information. Instead, keep it to yourself. This information might be sensitive and could put your coworker, who might be job hunting or going through a personal situation, in a very tough position if the information was to get out. You never want to be looked on as the big mouth or spreader of personal information.
Don’t discuss politics - You never discuss politics, religion, and money at the dinner table with family and friends, so why would you bring these topics up at work? If you do bring up politics at work, the upshot is the person you’re discussing politics agrees with you. The downside is they disagree, and you end up in an argument. Why take the risk in discussing? You don’t gain anything by sharing your opinions, so keep them to yourself. If you have a colleague ask you who you’ve voted for, tell them you prefer not to share. It’s not their business.
Don’t comment on management to others - If you have a problem with the way in which a situation was handled or a process at your organization, don’t comment on it to your coworkers. By doing that, you bring negativity to your organization. Nobody wants a negative nelly at their company. Instead, if you’re unhappy with the situation, I’d encourage you to directly bring it to your management to understand why it was handled in the way it was and offer your perspective (respectfully and professionally) to your management. *Also, if your management finds out you’re speaking poorly about them, I don’t think they’ll be too happy about it.
Be mindful of your drinks - You always want to be in control at work outings, right? If you go out to drinks with coworkers or have an open-bar at a work event, I personally don’t recommend having more than two drinks. If you feel like you lose control past one drink, don’t drink the second - nobody is judging you. You never want to be that person who gets too emotional, babbles on and on and on, or does something silly because they’re not in control. Do what you need to do to stay in control.