6 Ways to Be a Great Coworker

June 5, 2015

4:04 pm

The morning keynote kicking off the final day of Future Insights Live in Las Vegas was given by Jenn Lukas, front-end freelance consultant. She offered up a few dozen tips on “How to Be a Great Coworker” using some comical and, admittedly, some very sad examples of coworker behavior.

How many times have you arrived ready for a meeting in the middle of your otherwise productive day, only to wait for other participants to join? And then have the late participants litanize the personal details of their life, their morning, their breakfast – which they’re still eating – and all of the things that made them late? This is not professional. Here are the top 6 ways Jenn Lukas suggests that you strive to be more professional and as a result, be a better coworker:

Be on time – most of the time.

Things happen in this life. There will be times that your tardiness just can’t be avoided. But your coworkers can’t trust you if you are chronically late. If you’re 5 minutes late to a meeting where 10 people are waiting for you, you have created 50 minutes of wasted time. Those people could have been doing other things in that time. You’ve communicated to your coworkers that you are intentionally wasting their time if you have done this more than 10 times.

And don’t ask them to get started without you. If they have to catch you up once you arrive, you’ve just communicated to them that whatever they’ve done before your arrival is open to dismantling.

Communicate genuinely.

It is possible to embrace transparency without oversharing. Choose when to allow your personality to shine through in communication. It’s perfectly human to share that your daughter will have soccer tryouts tomorrow. But explaining every step you will take to prepare yourself and your household for said tryouts is definitely a conversation for non-work hours. Get your coworkers up-to-speed on how your personal commitments will affect your work commitments in a succinct manner.

Beware of the use of disqualifying language such as “just”. Don’t convey that a task you’ve assigned requires little effort. Think about the Golden Rule – would you want someone to characterize your job as “simple”? Vague tasks that do not give complete context also discount the work being done. Do not make assumptions that force someone else to do the legwork.

Communicate professionally.

Subtle language choices can make your environment more comfortable. For instance, stop calling women “girls”. Stop calling interfaces “sexy”. Replace the word you’re about to say with a synonym and decide if you would still use it. Be sensitive to exclusionary language. Use “we” instead of “I”. Understand what other inclusive language will best serve your company and its reputation. Not everyone appreciates swearing. Other people appreciate it a lot. (Emphasis mine.)

Don’t put down others. The person telling a negative story about another is the villain in the story. We want to work with nice people. Own up to your mistakes. Apologize genuinely for offensive actions or behaviors. Resolve conflicts wisely. These conversations can be awkward, but you must have these conversations directly instead of circumventing the person in question.

Undercommit and overdeliver.

Meet your deadlines! Be someone that people can count on. If this means you must undercommit and overdeliver, then do that. This also means you must know when to ask for help. We must feel comfortable working with each other and learning from one another. If you can’t figure something out after 15 minutes, ask for help. Commit to this rule. This not only shows self-initiative, it also shows respect for coworkers’ time.

Show gratitude! It increases productivity & happiness by 31%, but apparently, less than 15% of us express thanks in the workplace! Celebrate the right things we are doing together. Do not be stingy with those high-fives! Remind your coworkers how awesome it is to be in this job.

Improve and share.

Take the initiative to self-teach. Always be looking for self-improvement. Embrace feedback. Take on personal projects to develop your skills. Do a side project and you will be amazed by all of the various muscles you can exercise. Collaboration with others outside of work can help you stay up-to-date with other trends and help improve your own communication style. Being well-rounded and knowledgeable outside your specialty improves your overall health and happiness.

Share what you do with your coworkers. Explaining what your role is can be a wonderful way to gain respect, and a perfect way to solidify your own knowledge base. Explaining your job helps you make discoveries about it as well. Respect is the best way to work together. If we don’t know what it’s like to walk in each other’s shoes, it’s harder to develop respect. Be ready to learn what your coworker does. Organize lunch & learns to build team collaboration. Attend community events and meetups with your team to learn together. Volunteer as a team at local tech groups. Try something new together.

Agree on team norms.

What makes a good working environment? Be open and helpful to others. Lukas explained that there is a concept known as the “Asker or Guesser culture”.  Askers have the idea that it is OK to ask for anything, even if the answer might be no. Guessers avoid ever asking until they are reasonably sure that they will get a yes. Neither of these traits is identified as a positive or negative trait. What is important is to identify the communication style of yourself and others, so you can understand how you are working together.


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Previously the Managing Editor at Tech.Co, Ann Diab has a background of launching and nurturing of startups and tech companies. Empowering and educating entrepreneurs and startups to better productivity and culture is her passion. Growth Manager at WorkingOn to enable folks all over the world to enjoy work and improve communication. Follow me on Twitter.

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