During our time at any job we will have many co-workers. Some will be there for a long time, some will only last a couple weeks, some will be funny, some will be hard working, and some will make us dread our work. Whatever our thoughts are about our co-workers, there is value in getting to know their interests and passions outside of the workplace. When you work in an entry level position, or at a minimum wage job, you will be required to learn from others when you start, teach people once you have worked for a longer time, and communicate efficiently with the entire staff to ensure that everything is handled quickly and without errors. The workplace can become frantic and stressful, but understanding who you are working with, and knowing something about them may help you push through the hectic moments.
Learning the interests of your co-workers simply involves asking them questions about their likes or dislikes when work is slow, or when you are working on a simple task that does not require 100% of your attention and focus. I am not saying you should be having full on conversations every chance you get, and you certainly want to make sure that you are not doing so much talking that it becomes distracting for you or others around you, and you must make sure that your manager or boss does not frown upon a healthy conversation as well. When working together on simple tasks ask your co-worker easy questions about what they have done in the past, what things really interest them when they have free time, about what dreams they have, and what a perfect day would be like for them. Learn what they like or don’t like about work, and find ways to make things easier for them by helping them master the things they find tough, or by using your skills to cover areas that they are weak in, and communicate with them so that they can do the same. Opening up friendly communication at work can help your co-workers in many ways, and provide plenty of benefit for everyone at work.
The idea for this post came the other day at work. I was frustrated with some personal things and my home life, and I just did not seem to be able to leave it at the door. Working at a restaurant, the first thing I did when I got to work was start on some dishes. Working by myself in the back of the restaurant was probably not the best idea, rather than relaxing and getting into a good flow, I simply fumed as I thought about what was bothering me at home. I know others noticed that I was upset, and I felt as though I was not bringing the best me to work that day. After the dishes had been cleared up I was asked to work on the simple task of cutting two large bags of broccoli into bite size chunks with a co-worker. The job gave us a chance to chat a little, and I approached the task as an opportunity to get my mind off what was bothering me. I worked with a relatively new employee, and began asking him some questions. As our conversation grew and I learned more about him, I began to forget what was happening at home, and I began to respect my co-worker more. After a little pause in the broccoli cutting for some self-reflection, I realized that by focusing the conversation on him and not myself, I was able to engage him in a conversation that he enjoyed while shifting my focus away from my problems. Focusing on your co-workers interests and having lighthearted conversations with them can help ease you through your work on those rough days.
When thinking about the benefits of conversation and getting to know your co-workers, I quickly realized that my lesson was only one of many positives to come from good communication. Being able to talk in a relaxed and open way with those around you helps them relax, especially if you can use conversation to build a genuine relationship, and create an atmosphere of trust and safety. This atmosphere will allow them to feel comfortable with little criticisms, encourage them to work with others, and help everyone feel like part of a team. The easier communication is between employees the quicker they can work together on tasks that require different skills from different people. You will learn about what your co-workers are good at or where they have potential for growth, and you will all be able to get the most out of your time at work by becoming more efficient, and having a better attitude.