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Getting Along at Work: Social Conventions in the New Age

Sure you’re smart, sophisticated, wise and wonderful. But that doesn’t mean that you are going to get along with everyone at work. Whether they are your co-workers, staff or your direct reports, it’s going to take effort on your part to create a harmonious environment. And if it doesn’t come naturally, this getting-along-with-people thing, then here are a few tips.

Think Team

You are not alone. No matter your position, you are working as part of a group. Try to be an active and helpful part of this “team” of co-workers. Give ideas and suggestions to others. Tell your co-workers when you like their work or their work style. Praise good work, regardless of who did it. Never be afraid to compliment them or give encouraging words. It is a sign of strength, not weakness. Similarly, criticism should be given helpfully and gently, and whenever possible, privately.

Little Things

Day to day, it is the small acts that demonstrate your character to your co-workers. Notice the people that work around you every day. Are they married, and do they have children? Where do they lunch? How and from where do they commute? Who is it that brings in baked goods or birthday treats? Which bar do your co-workers like to frequent? What college did they graduate from? Seeing people as more than their title or job role makes any relationship deeper and more valuable.

Culture Club

Every firm has its own culture. Each has different ways of approaching and doing projects, even talking about these activities. Learn the way it is done in your workplace before you introduce the better way you may have.

Hold Your Tongue

It’s not always what you say but how you are saying it that makes the difference between being received warmly or getting into hot water. Never let emotions cause you to say something you don’t really mean, or that you know you shouldn’t say. Give others reason to believe they can bring problems and issues to your attention.


Be prepared to keep your pledges, no matter the cost. You’ll lose respect instantly if people learn you cannot be trusted to deliver on your word. Make it your responsibility to follow through on everything you say you’ll do, no matter how small.

Mind Your Business

It’s none of your business what people say about you. So don’t listen to it, and don’t participate in gossip. Usually, people passing unpleasant comments about others are not well-informed. Act nobly and don’t engage in gossip, and the gossip-mongers will likely avoid you.


Remember people’s birthdays. It makes them feel human and special and that transfers to you. Most adults working full-time jobs are way too busy to celebrate their birthdays. Have a list of all your co-worker birthdays and put them on your calendar. Honor them with a small gift, organizing a lunch on their honor, or even just a handshake or e-mail.

Even an ogre can become Most Popular by following mostly what used to be referred to as good manners. It’s one of the easy ingredients to include in your recipe for success.

AUTHORRobert Namar Insider Comment
  • Te
    15 August 2012

    Absolutely excellent advice. I'm now in my late 50's and being not only a professional on the job, but a genuine, caring human being has both helped my career and how I feel about myself when I go home. At one firm where I was one of the senior portfolio managers, I said good morning and spoke politely to every member of the firm. Wow, did that make that pressure cooker of a firm a whole lot easier to deal with. Lest you get the wrong idea, I am anything but a conformist, company man. And, there is a lot to be said for good karma.

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