Whether you work in a law firm, a corporation, governmental entity or any office outside the home, you will have to encounter and interact with the attorneys you work for and other paralegals and staff members you work with. Your career may even depend on your ability to get along with your coworkers. Here are a few tips to keep your colleague relationships in check:
Common Courtesy is Still Important
While it should be common knowledge, there are people that don’t seem to be aware that they share an everyday space with other human beings. Taking a conference call on speaker phone so you can have your hands free to take notes? Remember to close your door or ask your IT department for a headset so you don’t blast the rest of your office with the conversation. Need to heat up your lunch in the office microwave? Clean up after yourself and be careful not to smell up the office with last night’s leftover fish. Replace the paper in the printer once you’ve used it all and clear the paper jam in the copier so the next person can use it. A little courtesy goes a long way.
Have a chatty coworker that likes to take up precious billable hours with idle chit-chat? Kindly ask him or her to get with you at break or lunch so you can finish up your project. Let them know you are still interested in talking to them but just need to finish some work. Follow up with the person later when you have time. Vice-versa: if you want to stop and chat with a coworker, read their body language and vocal inflections or simply ask if they have the time to talk before diving into a spiel about your weekend. Your coworker will appreciate your respect of their time and workload.
Be Willing to Help
In the legal field you will likely frequently find yourself in a bind with no possible way to meet the deadline. Relate to your coworkers that are in a similar situation. Offer your assistance if you can see someone frantically trying to finish a project before the mail goes out the door. If you have any downtime, send an email or look around for a coworker who might need some help. That person may return the favor just when you need it most!
Be Willing to Ask for Help
People love to be needed and wanted. If you find yourself in a bind, don’t hesitate to ask a coworker for assistance. However, be aware of his/her situation. If your coworker is in a similar urgent situation, refrain from asking him/her for help and find someone who looks like they may have a little more time to help. Pick a simple task that doesn’t require a lot of time for explaining instruction such as photocopies, binder compilations and scanning projects. Short on coworkers? Outsource the project to a copy service.
Keep Away from Negative Office Politics and Gossip
Office politics will exist no matter the size or makeup of the office. You may not be able to avoid the politics altogether, but you can keep away from the negative aspects as much as possible. Politely decline to participate in office gossip especially when it involves other coworkers. How would you feel if your coworkers went around gossiping about you behind your back?
Handle Uncomfortable Situations with Dignity
There may come a time when an issue arises between you and another employee. If you find yourself in this situation, show grace and dignity by refraining from personal attacks and finger-pointing. Follow firm procedures by reporting any behavior that needs to be reported, but acknowledge any fault you had in the situation and offer a solution for moving forward.
Make an Effort to Be Involved in Your Coworker’s Life
One of the best parts of your job is the ability to get to know the people you work with. Most people love to talk about themselves – ask genuine questions about what’s going on in their lives and the lives of their loved ones. However, maintain your boundary and refrain from asking questions that are too personal. Pitch in when a coworker is raising funds for a kid’s school project. Send a note when a coworker’s loved one passes away. These types of gestures go a long way towards instigating a real relationship.