Posts Tagged ‘Friendship’

Good WorkerLast month I wrote a couple of posts about The Best Behaviors I’ve Shown As An Employee and The Worst Mistakes I’ve Made As An Employee. They were very well received with the post on worst mistakes being the most viewed post on this blog in the two years the blog has existed. Having examined myself first in those posts, I now turn my attention to what I appreciate most and what annoys me the most in coworkers. I’ll split the topics into two posts. I’ve worked at a number of places over 40 years, so don’t make any assumptions about particular places, teams or individuals referenced. I would never name names in a negative comment.

Since many working adults spend more waking hours with coworkers than with their families weekly, how we get along with others at work is important. When relationships are good and healthy, when work is fun and fulfilling, life is good. Most of us, though, have experienced those jobs or coworkers from time to time where interpersonal conflict and other issues cause stress and dissatisfaction. This post focuses on the characteristics and behaviors that I most appreciate in coworkers. My next post will deal with the flip side.

Here they are, not in any particular order of importance:

1. Strong work ethic. I don’t necessarily expect everyone to willingly and consistently put in the 50-55 hours per week I typically give, but I do expect people to work hard and to go above and beyond when needed. It turns me off if someone is so tied to a clock that they don’t consider putting in more than the minimum required. I love working with people who are driven to give their best and to put in the time necessary to put out quality work.

2. Sense of humor. It’s amazing how much quicker a day goes by when it is sprinkled with laughter and good-natured fun along the way. The presence of humor makes me want to be with the sources of that humor.

3. Creativity. I don’t claim to be very creative, but I appreciate others who can look at issues and tasks in new ways, present solutions I would never think of, and turn something otherwise mundane and bland into something that meets a need in an appealing, attractive, and unique way. There are almost always better ways to accomplish things, and being surrounded by creative minds increases the likelihood of coming up with remarkable solutions to business needs.

4. Willingness to help. When coworkers notice that a colleague is sinking under a heavy workload and needs help, it is encouraging to see them offer to share the load even if they already have a full plate themselves. Sometimes we all need a helping hand, and having colleagues you can turn to in a pinch or who initiate offering help is a godsend.

5. Emotional maturity. It is not helpful in an office when people wear their emotions on their sleeves and don’t know how to stay professional. I like working with others who can address matters calmly, reasonably, and with a common purpose of solving problems, moving forward, and getting things done. It is nice when people can receive constructive criticism and suggestions willingly. It’s helpful when others do not take things too personally when the intent of the conversation is to do what is in the best interests of the company and the work to be done.

6. Integrity. I like working with people who do what they say they they will do. I respect people who are honest in all situations. I expect that of myself and of others. Without it, I just can’t trust you, and that will negatively impact our ability to work together.

7. Initiative. It is invigorating to work on a team where individuals constantly think of new things that can be done as well as new and better ways to do what has been done in the past. When colleagues act on those inclinations, you have a scenario where the workers are fully engaged and enthusiastic about what they bring to the table, and the company ultimately benefits. It’s a win-win for the worker and the business.

8. Willingness to bend or break the rules. This one may get me in trouble. While it is important to live within corporate policies, it is also important to put faith in trusted, proven individuals and give them some leeway to act on their knowledge, experience, and instincts, even if some rules get bent in the process. Most of us don’t have to think too long and hard to come up with frustrating examples of corporate practices and policies that have been allowed to morph into some giant, life-sucking, time-consuming albatross around the necks of people who simply want to get their jobs done in the most efficient and effective manner possible. The rebel in me loves people willing to break rules in order to do a better job at something, asking forgiveness rather than permission.

9. Managers who give me a job to do and turn me loose to do it. I have been blessed with more managers than not who have trusted me to get my work done without them breathing down my neck and trying to micromanage everything I do. If I need help, I’ll ask for it. Otherwise, they can know that all is well. Check in with me every week or two to hold me accountable, but otherwise give me space and I’ll do you proud. Those who understand that and give me that freedom get my best work. Those who do not are now former managers.

10. Friendship. I don’t have to be best friends with anyone at work, but I do like thinking of several as genuine friends – people with whom I would be glad to hang out outside of work from time to time. That requires common interests, liking each other, and someone taking the initiative to get together outside of work occasionally. There is much to be gained from simply going out for a meal together or joining in some fun activity just for the heck of it.

So there you have my top ten characteristics or behaviors I most appreciate in coworkers. Some of my roles and teams have aligned better with those expectations than others. I am incredibly fortunate to be on a stellar team now that lives up to all of these.

What about you? What do you appreciate most in a coworker?

Imagine this scenario.  “Joe” has had regular conflicts in various matters with “Mary.”  Their differences are no secret and such disagreements have surfaced periodically for years.  Now imagine that something true but very difficult for Mary to hear about herself needs to be said.  For the sake of this post, we’ll say the hard message is that Mary has breath that would make a horse pass out (not the actual issue I have in mind, of course).

Who is the best person to get this message to Mary most successfully?  Is it Joe who has regularly confronted Mary about previous matters?  Probably not.  Mary has already learned to tune out Joe when convenient and she will most likely ignore the hard message regardless of how true it is.

That’s where Patty comes in.  If Mary is good friends with Patty, and Patty also knows the truth of this hard message that Mary needs to hear, then Patty is in the best position to deliver that tough message in a clear but kind way.  Mary will be more open to the message if it comes from a trusted friend than from a regular adversary.

Chances are pretty good that in combined scenarios in your life right now, you are all of the above people.  For some situations, you’re Joe who would like to give a true, needed, hard message to someone, but the past history you have with this person negates the likelihood of successful communication.  Maybe you’re Mary and either just heard or are about to hear something from another that won’t be easy to take.  Perhaps you’re Patty who has an opportunity to use your positive history with Mary to pass along a tough word with kindness and understanding.

None of the roles is easy.  Of the ones above, a heavy burden rests on Patty because important guidance can be delivered only by this person in a way likely to be heard and accepted.  That brings us to Leap year lesson #296 – Sometimes it takes a close friend to deliver a hard message.

graphic from anneofgreengables.com

I had coffee with a dear friend a few days ago.  We rarely see each other, going months at a time without direct contact besides seeing each other’s social media posts.  He is a trusted friend who is truly a kindred spirit in significant ways.  Time spent catching up and sharing about important matters is time well spent.  Since we neither work together, live near each other, go to church together or have any other regular contact, we have to arrange times to get together.

There are many wonderful people in my life – my family, good friends, coworkers, church family and others without whom life wouldn’t be as great a joy as it is.  Yes, there are those around me that tend to be a thorn in my side rather than a welcome presence, but it’s that way for everyone, so I’ll count my blessings instead.

Even with so many good friends around, it’s important to have that one or two other kindred spirits who you know you can talk to anytime to help bring balance and perspective to life.  I hope you have someone like that you can go to from time to time.  I am so thankful that I do.

Leap year lesson #279 is You need time with kindred spirits.

Doug & Jane Sallee

I chatted on Facebook last night with Doug – a good friend from high school – about some old memories.  Doug has an amazing memory, recalling far more details about past events than I do.  He impressed me last summer at our reunion with his recollections as well.

Doug shared several memories last night that come to mind – things like my St. Bernard, beer cheese, frog gigging, study hall, sharing stories, telling jokes and, of course, talking about girls.  I told him I laugh when I think about a silly prank I pulled on him in math class one day.  Each of us has things we remember that the other does not.

In my time many years ago as a church youth minister, I recall telling high school students something that they really didn’t want to hear – that the crowd they are so concerned with being accepted by in high school will soon fade in importance after graduation, many of them never to be heard from again.  The point was that you should not compromise your integrity or character or who you are in any way to be accepted by people who are only temporarily present in your life.  I am thankful in an era of social media that many of those connections can be easily reestablished.

As Doug and I shared our memories last night, a more serious thought came to mind.  I wrote this to him: “as much as we fret over the big moments that force our attention, it’s the sum of the smaller things that bring a smile and make a friendship meaningful.”  Hanging out together, doing fun things, talking, laughing, being there – these are the things that last and that still bring a smile nearly 40 years later.

I can’t tell you much detail about too many specific times together that long ago.  My memory is not as good as Doug’s.  Still, I know the end result of years of little things is a big thing – lasting friendship and appreciation of others who have made your life what it is.

Leap year lesson #232 is Friendship is a big thing that is made up of little things.