Mind & Body

How to get on everyone’s good sides at work

Psychologist and author of Work From Anywhere: The Essential Guide to Becoming a World-class Hybrid Team, Alison Hill lets us in on how to nail colleague relationships.

We’re about to shock you. Prepare yourself.

In your life you’re going to spend a third of it sleeping and a third of it working. Yes, that’s correct, only the final third of your life is actually for living.

While that’s enough to make us want to up and quit our jobs all together, it’s a good reminder that we should be making the most of the time we do have at work.

We should be focusing on our contribution to the company and our relationships with colleagues – in a way that is meaningful to us and adds to our lives.

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Speaking on Body+Soul’s daily podcast Healthy-ish, psychologist Alison Hill, who is also the author of new book Work From Anywhere: The Essential Guide to Becoming a World-class Hybrid Team, says the key to improving our work life is to invest in it.

“If [relationships] are not going well at work, we don’t sleep well. We toss and turn. And that can impact the other third of our life. And so checking in on those relationships, connecting in investing in those can mean a much richer experience in our own work experience,” she tells host Felicity Harley on the Healthy-ish episode How to get on everyone’s good side at work.

She adds that while work and life have always co-existed, they’ve never been as intertwined as they are in the age of COVID. We’re beaming colleagues into our living rooms on zoom, doing the washing between emails and, for some, simultaneously looking after children – it’s all become jumbled together.

Unlike other relationships in your life, your work atmosphere isn’t something you always have a choice over.

“It’s like an arranged marriage. You get put together and they go ‘Figure it out. Get along’,” Hill laughs.

So how can you be a better team player?

The first step is making an active investment in the people around you.

“It requires someone to lean into and step into that relationship. And so often, if we’re the ones waiting for someone to ask us how we are. We can be waiting a long time and then those relationships cannot be formed at all,” Hill explains.

She wants us to all be ‘the hero’ of our working relationships. Leaning in, getting curious about who people are, what they’re interested in and excited about in life.

“I just get blown away about how fascinating people are when we spend the time with them. Everyone has a story. So, care about being part of the team, prioritise taking the time and truly connecting with people.”

That’s all well and good – but what do you do when you work with a borderline psychopath, a total bludger, a compulsive liar or a loud-eater?

Hill’s answer is to deal with the problem swiftly and punctually – something that can be hard in a sea of zoom meetings and remote calls.

“There can be a big latency between the incident or the thing that frustrated us and when we might catch up with that person again,” she says.

“So how do we navigate this? I think [it’s about] prioritising calling it out, because what happens in that time, that space in between, is we tell stories, we make assumptions, we make it bigger than what it is.”

By being polite, but upfront and honest, you can catch problem behavior in the moment or close to it and hopefully address any potential issues before they become serious problems.

“The kindest thing we can do is be clear with someone about what might be frustrating and annoying us,” she says.

If you’re wondering the best way to go about it, try using the terminology of ‘the story I’m making up.

So you could say ‘The story I am making up is that we disagree about the way to approach the client.’

It’s a powerful way of sorting the assumptions we make as humans from what is really going on and will allow your colleague to clarify what is occurring – hopefully for the better.

So if you’re dealing with a Type A Miranda Priestly on a day-to-day basis, hopefully these tips will make the working third of your life a little more enjoyable.

Find out more about Alison’s book, Work From Anywhere (Wiley, $27.95), here. Suss out her business, Pragmatic Thinking, here, or follow her on Instagram @alihill.