Success at work depends on more than skills, experience or expertise. How well you work with others has a huge impact on your career.

Share story

Would you rather work with a genius who’s an incredible pain in the you-know-what, or a merely competent worker who’s easy to get along with?

I thought so.

You probably spend more hours of the day with your co-workers than with your family. What’s more, we are all judged on how well we work with colleagues, customers and everyone in between. While you surely learned in kindergarten how to “play well with others,” sometimes we lose track of the basics. Here they are:

  1. Make eye contact. When people address you, don’t continue tapping away at your keyboard. Give them the gift of your undivided attention. It sounds like a small thing, but paying attention is a dying art, and excelling at it makes you stand out.
  2. Listen actively. With some people, you need to look beneath the surface of their words to get to the core of their meaning. Be patient; don’t interrupt. And don’t jump on small mistakes.
  3. Show (sincere) interest. While you may not want to be BFFs with your cubicle mate, it won’t kill you to ask, “How was your weekend?”
  4. Assume goodwill. No matter how misguided you feel colleagues’ actions are, consider the possibility that they are sincerely trying to do a good job. Try to see things from their perspective.
  5. Share credit. Even when a success was all your idea, sharing the glory makes you look like even more of a winner. Besides, do we really ever accomplish something entirely on our own?
  6. Be open to the possibility that you might be wrong. At least accept that there’s room for improvement.
  7. Honor your commitments. Reliability and integrity not only reflect well on you, they’re contagious and will contribute to a constructive work environment.
  8. Show appreciation. Even though it may be someone’s job to supply you with, say, paper clips, when that person delivers your paper clips, say “Thank you.” It costs nothing, and it fosters an atmosphere of civility.
  9. Don’t expect to like everybody. And don’t expect everybody to like you. We always get along with some people better than others. Pick your battles. Sometimes it’s just enough that the work gets done.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at