1. Who's texting you?Okay, so you are in a meeting and your co-worker's cell phone starts buzzing. He grabs it casually and glances at the text. You blurt out, "Who's texting you?" Clearly, you are annoyed that he chose to look at the text over sticking with the conversation. And yet, whoever sent the text is really none of your business. Putting a co-worker on the spot like that is a sure-fire way to get them to resent you. Yes, you called him out for looking at the text, but demanding to know who sent it is out-of-line. If you want to draw attention to the action without embarrassing the co-worker, try saying: "Is everything okay? Is the text important?" Not only, will he politely get the point to shut it off, but if it is important, he'll tell you and you'll look like a nice person for inquiring.
2. Why are you so dressed up today?Your office is business casual, but your co-worker shows up in a suit. You and everyone else are thinking, "job interview." But, there are lots of reasons for getting dressed up. Maybe your co-worker has a date, wake, or non-profit event to go to? Okay, so we both know she is going on an interview, but you shouldn't put her on the spot about it. Questioning someone's motive for dressy attire looks like you are fishing for evidence to use against them. It's the fastest way to get a colleague to distrust you. So, the moment after she gives you her excuse, I mean reason for being dressed-up, she is also making a mental note you are not someone she should confide in. It's better to leave the fashion commentary to the pros.
3. What did you think of that meeting?Your boss just conducted a horrible meeting. It was boring, contradictory, and in your opinion, a complete waste of time. So, you hit the lunch room and ask your co-workers for their take on the meeting. First, you look like you are seeking negativity. Everyone who was in the meeting knows it was bad, no need to ask. Second, you are opening yourself up for a discussion that will ultimately lead to some boss trash-talking. Once you've been part of a discussion around your boss' mistakes and flaws, your co-workers not only assume you talk about them behind their backs, but they will also use that discussion as ammunition should you ever be at odds-on-the-job. Up for a promotion? You'll be shocked what will get back to your boss.
Anything and everything you've said against her will suddenly be mentioned. So, get ready to do some explaining. It's better to leave bad meetings alone. Just be glad it's over and move on.
4. Will you cover for me?Asking co-worker to help you lie to your boss is recipe for disaster. For starters, you are putting him in an uncomfortable situation. And more often than not, co-workers can't handle the guilty conscious covering for co-workers gives them. While he may agree to assist you, rest assured it leaves serious doubts in his mind about you and your ability to be honest. If you lie to your boss, what else are you capable of? Long after the situation has passed, your co-worker is feeling uneasy and starts to resent you. Before you know it, he's avoiding you at work and your boss is suddenly questioning you more than usual. Don't ask co-workers to do something they'll regret later -- you'll be the one regretting it even more!
4. Can you tell the boss I'm better for the job than ____.You are up for a promotion, but so is someone else in the company. You go to a co-worker and ask her to talk you up, and talk the other candidate down. Getting a recommendation for the job is one thing, but asking a co-worker to criticize another co-worker so you look better implies you have doubts about your professional credibility. If you are capable and deserve the promotion, then you should win it on your merits, not on the weaknesses of your competition.
Don't succumb to the dirty tactics of politicians. Instead, ask your co-worker to simply put in a good word for you, but only if she feels you would do a good job. Stay clear of discussing the competition and you'll show your confidence and professionalism too.
What we say and how we say it on-the-job plays a larger role in our ability to develop working relationships that can serve us well in our career. Think before you speak. A little strategy can go a long way in keeping your relationships with co-workers in good standing.
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