Are You the Office Grouch? How to Get Along at Work

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One of my very first clients called me to say he had committed career suicide. He had yelled at everyone in his office and kicked the trash can. He needed help rebuilding his workplace image.

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Every workplace seems to have that one person who is known for not being a team player. You know the person – the grouch, the gossip, causing discontent wherever they go. Everyone avoids this person – but what do you do when you are that person?

Here are some tips on how to build rapport in your career, overcome self-sabotage, and be recognized as a team player:

1. Keep a Candy Jar on Your Desk

This will make you approachable. People will stop by your desk to say hello and take a piece of candy. This gives you the opportunity to greet your coworkers and strike up friendly conversations. It may seem simple, but this strategy worked for my client.

A twist on the candy jar concept is to bring donuts occasionally – or, if you're like me and love to bake, bring in home-baked goods. No one can resist homemade chocolate chip cookies or brownies.

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2. Make It a Point to Greet People

As you enter your place of employment, greet everyone with a warm and friendly "Good morning." Your greeting and smile may be just what someone needs to put them in a positive mindset.

3. Participate in Office Functions

Participating may mean giving up an evening to go to a coworker's baby shower or heading to the office picnic on a Sunday. Be present and positive. Do not be the disgruntled employee.

4. Occasionally Go to Lunch With Your Coworkers

Even if your normal routine is to go home and walk the dog or eat lunch at your desk, make time once a week or once a month to go to lunch with your coworkers. If your coworkers do not go to lunch together, you can be the one to invite them to join you.

One of my clients was new to her workplace and started inviting coworkers – even the negative Nellies – to join her outside at the picnic table at lunchtime. She learned a lot about her coworkers and developed a respect and understanding for them. You never know what burden someone is carrying until you get to know them.

Invite gloomy Gus and negative Nelly to join you and others at lunch. Maybe they are a bit negative or gloomy because they feel left out. Make them feel welcome.

5. Contribute

If your employer allows you to celebrate birthdays and acknowledge special events, I encourage you to contribute. Don't be the "I won't contribute $5, and you can't make me" guy. Again, be a team player.

A great idea that doesn't cost anything and was recently used at my daughter's workplace is giving someone a treasured book to mark a special occasion. The birthday girl loved to read, so my daughter asked everyone to bring in a book off their bookshelf they liked but probably wouldn't read again. Each employee wrote a note to the birthday girl inside the book they gave her. It was a huge success. The birthday girl posted on social media that she had the best birthday ever thanks to her coworkers. She told everyone how she had cried happy tears because their kindness so touched her. This consideration didn't cost anyone anything, but it went a long way in building a cohesive team.

6. Be Approachable

Your body language reveals a great deal about your attitude. Be mindful of how you carry yourself. Actively listen when people are talking to you.

7. Never Participate in Office Gossip

If someone runs to you with a juicy story, shut the conversation down fast. Politely, yet firmly, let the person know you do not want to engage. Also, be mindful that you are not the one oversharing or gossiping.

Being a team player is critical to your career success. You do not want to be invisible. You want people to remember your name – for the right reasons, of course. The above tips will help you become someone who exudes positive energy in the workplace instead of the office grouch.

Jaynine Howard is a military veteran whose work as a career strategist and reinvention specialist has been recognized by professional organizations throughout the nation.