Be the Change: 12 Steps to Becoming a Better Coworker

We often become so focused on our tasks and goals that we may overlook a crucial aspect of professional life—being a good coworker. Maintaining harmonious relationships with coworkers cannot be understated, as we spend much of our day at work. Being a good coworker creates a positive and productive work environment but also aids in personal growth, fosters team spirit, and can even advance your career.

In this article, we’ll delve into several vital ways you can enhance your interactions with your coworkers. We’ll provide actionable advice to help you become the best coworker you can be. Every change, no matter how small it may seem, can significantly impact your work relationships and the overall workplace atmosphere. Let’s dive in!

1. Understand the Importance of Good Communication

Communication serves as the lifeblood of any successful workplace. Effective communication isn’t just about articulating your own ideas and feelings clearly, but it also involves actively listening to your colleagues and understanding their viewpoints.


Speak Clearly and Consciously:

Be clear in your communication, whether it’s in an email, during a meeting, or in a casual conversation. Before you speak or write, think about what you want to say and how to say it in a way that is easily understood. Avoid technical jargon if unnecessary, and ensure your tone is professional yet approachable.

Practice Active Listening:

Active listening involves not just hearing but understanding and responding to your colleagues in a way that makes them feel heard and valued. When others are speaking, give them your full attention. Show interest, ask follow-up questions, and provide feedback when appropriate.

Be Open to Dialogue:

Encourage open discussions and be willing to listen to different viewpoints. This can lead to better problem-solving and decision-making. Remember that everyone has unique insights and experiences to contribute.


Be Respectful in Your Communication:

Always speak and write respectfully, no matter the situation. If you must address a problem or conflict, focus on the issue rather than resort to personal attacks.

Use the Right Communication Channels:

Choose the most appropriate means of communication for the situation. For instance, complex issues are often better discussed face-to-face or over video rather than via email or text.

By honing these communication skills, you’ll be able to collaborate more effectively with your coworkers and foster stronger, more positive relationships in the workplace.


2. Demonstrate Empathy in the Workplace

Empathy is a vital trait in the workplace that often doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. It refers to the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. When you demonstrate empathy, it leads to more supportive and productive working relationships.

Seek to Understand Before Being Understood:

Whenever you’re engaging with a coworker, take a moment to understand their perspective. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but by seeking to understand, you show respect for their feelings and viewpoint.

Be Aware of Non-Verbal Cues:

Much of our communication is non-verbal. Pay attention to body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions to better understand your co-worker’s feelings.


Show Genuine Interest:

Take the time to learn about your coworkers. Understand their career goals, preferred work style, and even interests outside of work. This can enhance your working relationship and provide valuable context when addressing work-related matters.

Offer Support:

If a coworker faces a challenging situation, offer your support. Sometimes, this might mean offering to help with their workload. Other times, it might simply mean being there to listen.

Demonstrate Compassion:

Everyone has off days. If a coworker seems to be having a tough time, offer a kind word, a listening ear, or a small act of kindness. These gestures can mean a lot and help build a more compassionate workplace.


By showcasing empathy in the workplace, you’re not only becoming a better coworker but also fostering an environment based on mutual understanding and respect.

3. Cultivate Patience

Patience is a virtue that carries significant weight in the workplace. It’s important to remember that not everyone works at the same pace or has the same skillset. Understanding and accepting these differences can foster a more harmonious work environment.

Embrace Different Work Styles:

Understand that everyone has a unique approach to their work. Rather than expecting your coworkers to conform to your style, try to appreciate and learn from their distinct methods.


Manage Expectations:

Keeping expectations realistic and flexible is important. If a coworker takes longer to complete a task or learn a new skill, remain patient and offer help if appropriate and feasible.

Practice Self-Control:

In high-pressure situations, it’s crucial to maintain a level head. Reacting impulsively can lead to conflicts or mistakes. Instead, take a moment to breathe and consider your response carefully.

Be a Patient Listener:

Make sure you’re not just waiting for your turn to speak in conversations but actually listening to your coworker’s thoughts and ideas. This shows respect and can also help avoid misunderstandings.


Stay Positive:

Maintaining a positive attitude, even when things get tough, can influence the overall mood of the workplace. Celebrate small victories and use challenges as opportunities for growth.

Cultivating patience isn’t always easy, but it’s essential to being a good coworker. Practicing patience can help foster a more understanding, supportive, and efficient workplace.

4. Learn to Respect Differences

The workplace is a melting pot of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and skills. Learning to respect and leverage these differences can lead to richer, more innovative solutions and a more inclusive and fulfilling work environment.


Acknowledge Individual Strengths:

Each coworker brings unique skills and talents to the table. Recognize these strengths and consider how they can complement your abilities and the team’s.

Encourage Diverse Opinions:

Actively seek out and welcome different viewpoints during discussions and brainstorming sessions. This fosters an environment where everyone feels valued and contributes to more comprehensive decision-making.

Respect Cultural Differences:

Be aware of and respectful of your coworkers’ cultural and personal backgrounds. This enriches the workplace environment and minimizes potential misunderstandings or conflicts.


Adopt an Open Mindset:

Approach differing viewpoints with curiosity rather than defensiveness. Even if you disagree, try to understand your coworker’s perspective and learn from it.

Promote Inclusion:

Ensure that everyone on the team feels included and valued. This might involve encouraging quieter team members to share their ideas or ensuring that work social events suit everyone.

Respecting and embracing differences can contribute to a more inclusive, dynamic, and productive work environment. Remember, the strength of a team lies in its diversity.


5. Be a Team Player

In any workplace, a strong sense of teamwork is vital for achieving common goals. Being a team player involves contributing to this common purpose while supporting and uplifting your colleagues.

Understand Your Role:

Know what is expected of you in a team and ensure you deliver on your responsibilities. At the same time, understand the roles of others to appreciate their contributions.

Collaborate, Don’t Compete:

Adopt a mindset of collaboration rather than competition. Focus on the team’s success rather than individual accolades.


Support Your Coworkers:

Be there for your coworkers. Offer help when you can, share useful resources, and be willing to step in when a team member needs assistance.

Share Credit Where It’s Due:

If a coworker has done well, acknowledge their effort. Sharing credit builds trust and fosters a sense of camaraderie.

Value Team Decisions:

Even if a team decision doesn’t align with your personal preference, respect it and work towards its successful implementation. This shows commitment to the team’s success.


Encourage a Positive Team Culture:

Contribute to a team culture that promotes respect, openness, and positivity. This could be through your work ethic, interactions with coworkers, or even team-building activities.

Being a team player makes you a better coworker and contributes to a more productive and harmonious workplace. And remember, every successful team is a group of many hands but a single mind.

6. Master the Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback

Feedback is the cornerstone of improvement and innovation. However, giving and receiving feedback is an art that requires tact and understanding.


Give Constructive Feedback:

When providing feedback, focus on the task or behavior rather than the person. Be specific, offer suggestions for improvement, and ensure your tone is supportive, not critical.

Be Open to Receiving Feedback:

Don’t be defensive when receiving feedback. Instead, view it as a learning opportunity. Show appreciation for the feedback and ask clarifying questions if needed.

Create a Safe Space for Feedback:

Ensure the environment is conducive to open, honest communication. Feedback should never feel like an attack but rather a constructive conversation.


Deliver Feedback in a Timely Manner:

Feedback is most effective when given soon after the event or behavior it refers to. However, make sure it’s given at an appropriate time and place.

Use Feedback for Growth:

Use the feedback you receive as a stepping stone for personal and professional development. Similarly, when giving feedback, focus on how it can help your coworker grow and improve.

Mastering the art of feedback can significantly enhance your relationships with your coworkers and promote a culture of continuous learning and improvement in the workplace. Remember, feedback is not about finding faults but about propelling forward.


7. Avoid Workplace Politics and Gossip

Workplace politics and gossip can be detrimental to a positive work environment. They can create rifts among team members and decrease morale and productivity. Here’s how you can navigate this:

Stay Professional:

Always maintain a high level of professionalism in your interactions. Avoid getting involved in personal conflicts or debates that are unrelated to work.

Avoid Gossip:

Refrain from spreading or listening to workplace gossip. It’s not only unprofessional, but it can also lead to misunderstandings and tension.


Keep Personal Opinions in Check:

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but the workplace is not the place to air personal or controversial views that may cause discomfort or conflict.

Focus on Work:

Keep your focus on your work and responsibilities. This can help you avoid getting tangled in unnecessary office politics.

Promote Transparency:

If you’re in a leadership role, promote a culture of transparency. This can help to reduce rumors, misunderstandings, and politics.


By avoiding workplace politics and gossip, you contribute to a healthier, more harmonious, and more respectful work environment. Remember, the workplace is professional, and your conduct should always reflect this.

8. Develop Positive Relationships

Establishing positive relationships with your coworkers can significantly enhance your work experience. It creates a supportive, enjoyable environment and can also contribute to increased productivity and collaboration. Here’s how you can foster positive relationships:

Show Appreciation:

Regularly appreciate your coworkers’ hard work and contributions. A simple “thank you” can go a long way in building positive relationships.


Be Reliable:

Follow through on your commitments and be someone your coworkers can depend on. Reliability builds trust and respect among your peers.

Engage Socially:

Take part in social activities and informal gatherings. This can strengthen bonds and help you get to know your coworkers more personally.

Offer Help:

If you see a coworker struggling with a task that you’re proficient in, offer your assistance. Helping others not only fosters goodwill but also promotes a culture of teamwork and collaboration.


Resolve Conflicts Constructively:

Disagreements are inevitable in any workplace. When they occur, focus on resolving them constructively and respectfully. This helps maintain positive relationships and can lead to improved understanding and collaboration.

By developing positive relationships with your coworkers, you’re making the workplace more enjoyable and fostering a culture of mutual support and respect. Remember, the strength of the team is each individual member, and the strength of each member is the team.

9. Set Healthy Boundaries

Setting boundaries in the workplace is essential for maintaining a balanced and healthy work life. It ensures mutual respect among coworkers and prevents work-related stress or burnout. Here’s how to set healthy boundaries:


Define Your Limits:

Clearly define what is acceptable to you regarding work hours, workload, and responsibilities. Communicate these limits to your coworkers and superiors.

Learn to Say No:

You don’t have to agree to every request or task. If you’re overloaded or the task falls outside your responsibilities, saying no is okay. Be polite but firm in your refusal.

Protect Your Personal Time:

Avoid bringing work home or staying late regularly. Time for relaxation and personal interests is important to maintain a healthy work-life balance.


Avoid Work-Related Discussions Outside Work Hours:

Having downtime from work-related discussions is important. Try to keep your personal time free from work talk unless it’s an emergency.

Respect Others’ Boundaries:

Just as you want others to respect your boundaries, ensure you respect theirs. Don’t pressure coworkers into overstepping their limits.

Setting healthy boundaries is a crucial part of being a good coworker. It helps you maintain your work-life balance and fosters a more respectful and understanding workplace environment. Remember, boundaries are a way of caring for yourself.


10. Improve Your Conflict Resolution Skills

Conflict is inevitable in any workplace. However, dealing with conflict can significantly impact your relationships with coworkers and the overall workplace environment. Here are some ways you can improve your conflict resolution skills:

Keep Calm:

It’s important to stay calm during disagreements. A level-headed approach can help you understand the situation better and avoid unnecessary escalation.

Listen Actively:

Listen carefully to the other person’s perspective before reacting. Understanding their point of view can facilitate a more productive discussion and resolution.


Communicate Clearly:

Clearly express your feelings and thoughts about the situation. Use “I” statements to avoid blaming the other person and to convey how the situation affects you.

Seek a Win-Win Solution:

Aim for a resolution that addresses both parties’ concerns. This promotes mutual respect and preserves the relationship.

Involve a Mediator if Necessary:

If you cannot resolve the conflict, involve a neutral third party like HR or a supervisor. They can provide a fresh perspective and help mediate the discussion.


Improving your conflict resolution skills helps you navigate workplace disagreements more effectively and fosters better relationships with your coworkers. Remember, conflict can be an opportunity for growth if handled constructively.

11. Practice Good Office Etiquette

Adhering to office etiquette shows respect for your coworkers and contributes to a more pleasant and efficient work environment. Here are some tips:

Respect Shared Spaces:

Keep shared spaces clean and tidy. If you use the break room, meeting room, or shared desk space, leave it as you found it.


Minimize Noise:

Be mindful of your noise levels. Use headphones when listening to music and keep your phone silent or vibrate. If you need to take a call, try to do so in a designated area.

Be Punctual:

Value your coworkers’ time. If you have a meeting or a deadline, ensure you’re on time. If you’ll be late, let the relevant people know in advance.

Respect Privacy:

While open communication is essential, there’s also a need for privacy. Don’t intrude on others’ personal space; avoid prying into personal matters unless invited.


Use Technology Wisely:

Avoid distracting your coworkers with unnecessary emails or messages. Use ‘Reply All’ sparingly and ensure your communications are clear and concise.

Office etiquette might seem trivial, but it can go a long way in establishing a respectful and efficient workplace environment. Remember, consideration and respect for others are critical to good office etiquette.

12. Celebrate Successes

Recognizing and celebrating successes, both big and small, fosters a positive workplace culture. It encourages a sense of accomplishment, boosts morale, and promotes team cohesion. Here are some ways you can celebrate success:


Acknowledge Achievements:

When you or your team accomplishes a goal, take a moment to acknowledge the achievement. This could be a simple verbal recognition or an email to the team.

Share Success Stories:

Regularly sharing success stories can inspire others and foster a sense of pride in the team’s accomplishments.

Organize Celebrations:

Consider organizing a team celebration for significant achievements. This could be a lunch, an after-work outing, or a small office party.


Give Positive Feedback:

Give specific, positive feedback to individuals who have made notable contributions. This boosts their morale and encourages them to continue performing well.

Encourage Others to Celebrate Successes:

Promote a culture where everyone feels comfortable celebrating their successes and those of others. This can create a more positive and supportive work environment.

By celebrating successes, you acknowledge your coworkers’ hard work and achievements and foster a more positive and motivated work culture. Remember, success is sweeter when it is celebrated together.


Being a better coworker is an ongoing journey that requires continuous effort, patience, and understanding. Each of the twelve steps above is crucial in shaping your relationships with coworkers and the overall work environment. However, the most important thing to remember is that everyone is unique, with their own strengths, weaknesses, and perspectives. You can become a better coworker and a more effective and respected professional by respecting these differences and treating everyone with kindness and understanding.

Remember, the journey to being a better coworker starts with a single step – the decision to make a positive change. And as you take that step, you’ll find that the benefits extend far beyond the workplace, enriching your personal growth and relationships outside of work.

Having gone through the various steps to become a better coworker, it’s time to implement these lessons. Remember, change starts with you. So, take a moment today to identify one area you’d like to work on first. It could be improving your communication skills, or it could be setting healthier work-life boundaries. Whatever it is, commit to making a positive change.


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Jason Cortel is currently the Director of Global Workforce Management for a leading technology company. He has been in customer service, marketing, and sales services for over 20 years. In addition, he has extensive experience in offshore and nearshore outsourcing. Jason is an avid Star Trek fan and is on a mission to change the universe by helping people develop professionally. He is driven to help managers and leaders lead their teams better. Jason is also a veteran in creating talent and office cultures.

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