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13. Getting Ahead at Work (3)

Building relationships at work Something that rarely appears on individuals' to-do lists is 'be good to my colleagues', and yet paying attention to your relationships at work can pay enormous dividends. If you have good relations with your colleagues, work is more enjoyable and satisfying; your colleagues are more likely to help in a crisis, and less likely to create conflict; people feel valued and work better; and it's much easier to get things done. This tip is about taking time to invest in your relationships at work. 'Time for reflection with colleagues is for me a lifesaver; it is not just a nice thing to do if you have the time. It is the only way you can survive.' Margaret J. Wheatley International speaker and writer A while back, in the BBC's Talking Point, there was an online discussion of 'the worst jobs ever'. In it were expected stories of nasty jobs that involved dealing with large amounts of excrement; mind-bendingly boring jobs like watching dried fruit go by on a conveyor belt and having to make ensure that no two raisins are stuck together; stomach-churning jobs, like lying on your back under a machine in an egg factory, scraping rotten eggs off onto your face; futile jobs, like changing the price on 200 blazers from £79.99 to £80 and then back to £79.99 again the next day. But there were also quite reasonable jobs - teaching jobs, management jobs, fruit-picking jobs, factory jobs; jobs that were not bad in themselves, but were rendered unbearable by something other than the content. People usually become coaches because they've had challenges of their own and would like to use what they've learnt to help others in similar situations. I'm no exception. I have been in junior jobs where the responsibilities were terrifying and the hours demoralising. I have had jobs where I've been bored. I have resigned twice, from jobs where I was unhappy. I have changed careers and sectors more than once. When you've moved around a bit, as time goes on you start to work out what it is that makes a good job, and what it is that makes a lousy job. In a job where the work is reasonably enjoyable and appropriate to your talents, there is one thing I have come to realise that makes the difference between a good job and a bad job - the people. You can do exactly the same job in two different places and love one job and hate the other. That's why, when people come to me saying that they hate what they do and want to change to something completely different, I spend an awful lot of time helping them to be really clear what it is about their work that they don't like. Because often it has nothing to do with the work itself, and everything to do with the people. A year or so ago I ran a workshop at an international conference on doctors' health. It was entitled 'How to be a good colleague' and the audience consisted of around seventy doctors from all over the world. American physicians, Canadian psychiatrists, Australian anaesthetists, British GPs and so on. I asked them to think of someone they would describe as a good colleague and think of three things that person did or said that they particularly appreciated. I then asked them, on the basis of these things, to give themselves three tips for being a good colleague. You may like to do the same before you read on. Here are some of the tips they gave themselves: - Give positive feedback - Say 'how are you?' and mean it - Offer help in time of need - Go the extra mile for them - Be enthusiastic and competent - Listen - Talk one to one, not just in meetings - Be available and generous with your time and knowledge - Say hello for no particular reason - Be welcoming and supportive to new staff - Anticipate people's needs - Be open to helping with problems, without judgement - Have a sense of humour - Be kind - Treat people with respect and as equals - Take genuine interest in the other as a person - Understand that there is more to life than work, and model that - Notice when all is not well - Present different points of view without being disagreeable or rude 'You are too young and not paid enough to be worried. I can be with you in five minutes.' How a consultant responded to a junior doctor's call. Try this: 1. Make a list of the main people you encounter or work with in your job. You'll notice that there are people who are more senior to you, people on a level and people more junior. They are all important, even bosses needs friends and support. 2. Score the quality your relationship with each person out of ten. Notice what criteria you use to assess the quality of the relationship. Is it how much you like them, how much they seem to like you, whether you think you treat them well, whether they treat you well. What evidence are you using? 3. Now look at the above list of things a good colleague does, and give yourself an A, B or C to reflect the degree to which you do these things regularly at work. 4. Choose some behaviours that you would like to do more of, and the people you would like to do them for/with and plan to do them next week. 5. Notice the results.