No one wants to feel like their co-workers dislike them, but if you're feeling left out and you're not taking steps to make yourself more available to your peers, you could be contributing to the problem. The good news is, there are plenty of simple, proven ways to be a better co-worker and improve your relationships in the office.
Quit common pet peeves
The easiest way to be a better co-worker is to avoid doing things that annoy everyone else in the office, especially when you're in meetings. No one really enjoys taking an hour out of their day to sit through a meeting in the first place, so make sure you're not the one making everyone more irritable.
So, what are your co-workers' biggest pet peeves? According to a study from Igloo Software, your peers are annoyed by buzzwords (phrases like "touch base" and "circle back") and a whole host of other behaviors. Fifty-nine percent hate it when meetings don't stay on topic, 51 percent get irritated when people take phone calls in the middle of a meeting and 47 percent are bothered by side conversations, among other annoying actions.
Your co-workers want meetings and interactions that are focused, productive and interesting, so make sure you contribute positively to keep on everyone's good side.
Communicate in person
This may seem simple, but the way you communicate with your co-workers can have a huge impact on your relationships with them. It's easy to misunderstand or misconstrue emails and instant messages, so to be a better co-worker, you should try to increase the amount of face time you get with your peers.
Psychologist Susan Pinker said that spending too much time communicating through technology can actually keep you from the most basic biological necessities, according to Fast Company. Unlike email threads and IM chats, face-to-face communication and interactions, like handshakes and high fives, cause the body to release oxytocin, a hormone that helps people connect with and trust others, and that facilitates collaboration and attachment. Oxytocin can also positively impact your mood, decrease cortisol (the stress chemical) in your body, and improve your ability to remember and learn things.
Try to take at least a few moments out of every day to step away from your computer screen and talk to your co-workers in person — it'll make all of you a lot happier.
Work harder — it's contagious
It may be easier than you think to inspire your co-workers to be their best selves. You've likely heard the phrase "lead by example," and as it turns out, research supports it. Focusing hard on your work can actually cause others around you to do the same.
According to a study in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, thinking hard can actually be contagious, Mental Floss reported. Researchers assigned pairs of participants computer-based tasks that were specifically made to be harder for one person in each pair than they were for the other. The experiment was conducted twice, once with dividers between the pairs and once without, but in both cases, researchers found that the participant who had the easier task concentrated harder than usual, even though their task didn't require a lot of mental exertion. Researchers suggested that these participants may have been influenced by changes in the body posture of participants who had to complete the harder tasks.
By putting in the effort to really concentrate and work harder, you could just motivate your co-workers to do the same, leading to a more productive and happier workplace.
Adjust your attitude
Thinking hard isn't the only thing that's contagious — research from the University of Florida's Warrington College of Business Administration shows that your attitude can influence your co-workers, too. The study likened workplace rudeness to the common cold, Today reported.
Researchers conducted and compared three different studies in which students had to respond to rudeness in different situations, and found that those who experienced rudeness were more likely to find more rudeness in their environment and even treat people differently. In one of the studies, students were paired up with others in a negotiating class, and had to fill out questionnaires about their partners. Researchers found that the students who rated their partner as rude were rated by their next partners as rude themselves.
If you want your interactions with your co-workers to go smoothly, take this into consideration: Avoid grumpy or short replies, try to make pleasant conversation with your peers and stop spreading a bad attitude in the office. Or, if a co-worker is rude to you, make a conscious effort to not let it affect how you treat others.
Stop making excuses
If you've ever told a colleague you couldn't or didn't get to something because you were really busy, you should know that they probably didn't believe you. A study by corporate communications company Havas Worldwide found that 42 percent of adults overstate how busy they are, and 60 percent of adults are suspicious that their peers do it too, Money reported.
According to the study, however, only 1 in 3 global respondents said they always have too much to do, and 1 in 5 said they're constantly running around. Workers are likely lying about how busy they are because they think that having free time could make them seem nonessential to their employers, the study found.
The problem here is that, if you're chronically putting off replying to emails or taking on new tasks and using "I'm busy" as an excuse, your co-workers can see right through it and will likely judge you for it. If you want to be the co-worker people actually like, try volunteering to help your team or working on your email habits. In any case, the excuses aren't doing you any favors.