OK, so you don't have to be BFFs with everyone you work with, if you'd prefer not to. Sometimes, work is about getting in, getting out, and getting that paycheck — and that's totally understandable. But there are benefits to becoming friends with your coworkers, and being someone people can get along with.
First off, bonding with your colleagues can help you get ahead in your career, since experts say it's typically those who are well-liked at work who are top of mind when it comes time for promotions. But it's also about creating a good environment, since work is where you spend most of your time.
"We [often] spend more time with the people at work than we do with our own family and friends," career performance coach Jacqueline Dolly tells Bustle. "When we neglect to strengthen our bonds with our coworkers, we leave ourselves vulnerable and isolated." And doing what you can to prevent feeling isolated, lonely, or bored at work? Totally worth it.
But it's also important to bond in the name of cultivating a healthier, more functional office environment. "When we get to know our coworkers and strengthen our bonds with them, it becomes a little easier to meet challenges as a team and solve people-related issues that form the majority of the challenges we experience at work," Dolly says. Here are a few ways experts say you can get your bond on with your coworkers, and have an all-around better day.
1Try To Have A Positive Outlook
Even though work can be stressful AF, there's a whole lotta benefit in being positive during difficulties. "Having a positive and optimistic outlook — even in the face of challenge — is valued by others," Dolly says. So even though it may feel tricky, try to stay away from negativity, downer comments, or harsh criticisms.
You don't have to be super sweet all day long, but it will make for a better work day, and a better work environment, if you keep a cool head during pressure. It may even help your coworkers deal better with stress too.
2Do What You Can To Put Your Best Foot Foward
In similar terms, it never hurts to present your best, most authentic self to your coworkers. "When people perceive you as ... caring, they are far more responsive to your needs and ideas," Libby Gill, an executive coach and leadership consultant, tells Bustle. "We are also much more willing to give people we like the benefit of the doubt when they make a mistake or an unpopular decision."
So go ahead and make a good impression, in whatever way feels most comfortable for you, Gill says. This might include actively listening to your boss's story about their weekend, being the awesome coworker who brings snacks for the break room, or simply smiling and saying good morning to everyone you see.
3Let Them See The Real You
It can be so tempting to put on your "work face" while on the job. You know, that person you think you should be while at work. But, if you really want to bond with coworkers, it can help to let your guard down a bit, and be your true self.
"The hardest but most important way of building a true bond and connection with your colleagues is by showing up as authentic as you can everyday," Leyanne Oliveira, founder of Life with LO, tells Bustle. "When you truly allow others to see who you are that's when true bonding occurs."
And yes, that includes being kind. But it also includes being real. "If you would truly like to bond with your colleagues, I challenge you to allow them to not only see you as a colleague but a human being," Oliveira says. "Allow them to see you when you make a mistake or are unsure of the answer and at any other time when you feel the lowest in the workplace."
4Show Honest & Sincere Appreciation For Them
As Dolly says, "most of us feel we do not receive enough appreciation for what we do at work." And, it's often one of the top reasons people leave jobs. So be that person who keeps morale high by showing appreciation. "Honest, encouraging, and thoughtful appreciation costs nothing," she says. "And yet can mean everything to the people you work with — including your boss."
5Actually Listen During Your Convos
Remember what I said above about listening to your coworker's weekend tales? "Being a good conversationalist has more to do with listening and asking the right questions than it does with talking," Dolly says. "It pays to get to know who [your] coworkers are and to understand their needs and wants. Learn who they are, their values, and what is important to them in and outside of work."
6Try To Remember Everyone's Names
This one may not be possible if you work for a giant corporation, but do try to remember names whenever possible. "When you remember a person's name and use it correctly, you tell them that they matter and are important to you," Dolly says. "This is especially true when we encounter coworkers we do not see very often. It shows respect when you can recall the names of your colleagues. If you are also able to recall important things from previous conversations with them, it is even more impressive."
7Make Them Feel Important
Since everyone likes to feel important, it's always nice to go out your way to show a colleague that they matter. "Think along the lines of thank you cards, notes, recognition at meetings, buy them lunch or coffee when they go above and beyond, [etc.]" Dolly says. "These are very simple yet effective ways shore-up to our relationship bonds with our colleagues. Everyone wants to feel that they matter and that they bring value to the table."
Just make sure you do so in a sincere way. "It's not enough to tell people that they've done a great job," she says. "People want to know why they've done a great job. This requires us to be specific about what it is they have done, and why you value what they have done. Not only is this an effective and believable way to appreciate others, it also helps to encourage behaviors and actions we want to see more of."
8Get To Know Them Outside Of Work
Even though you're likely exhausted by the end of the day, it can help to join up with coworkers after work for some outside-the-office bonding time. "Get to know your coworkers in a neutral setting like a coffee shop or bar," Anna Wood, MBA, founder & CEO of the lifestyle platform Brains over Blonde, tells Bustle. "Avoid work as a topic, and get to know what's going on in their life outside of work. Show genuine interest, and then follow-up on the conversation at a later date."
And if you're still wondering why you'd want to join a coworker for lunch, remember — it can be beneficial to your career. "When employees genuinely like each other and have true friendships, workplace morale and employee retention are much higher," Wood says. "Bonding about non-work related topics also heightens camaraderie and collaboration among employees."
9Create A Group On Facebook
Another fun way to bond — especially if you're not the happy hour type, or just don't have the time — is to join a work Facebook group. "Creating a closed Facebook group with coworkers is a great way to have fun sharing content in a social environment," corporate culture consultant Maggie Viola tells Bustle. "Because social media isn't controlled by corporate rules and regs, it allows coworkers to get silly, be funny, share pics from in the office and outside of work ... and create a playfully informative environment — outside of the office space."
And who knows? It may just lead to some lasting friendships. "Should members of the closed group wish to further expand their relationships, they can friend request coworkers and further bond and connect to their personal social feeds ... People who may be 'shy in the office often times are able to open up by connecting in these groups first."
10Eat Lunch In The Break Room
If you're one to eat lunch at your desk, it may be time to venture into the break room for some lunchtime company. "It's tempting to stay at your desk and check social media on your break, but consider taking your break in a common area so you can spend a few minutes chatting with your coworkers and getting to know them better," Dr. Crystal I. Lee, psychologist and owner of LA Concierge Psychologist tells Bustle. "You don't have to spend every break out of your office, but even once a day helps."
11Show Some Respect
"It is common sense, but respect goes beyond how you talk to the person; it is also respecting their boundaries," Lakiesha Russell, a Licensed Professional Counselor, tells Bustle. "If that coworker is one who doesn't like office gatherings respect their decision, as it is not personal — that's just who they are. Or if the coworker has their office door closed, knock first." Kind, respectful gestures like these will help you stand out from colleagues who may forget to be as respectful. And when the kindness is reciprocated, you'll have won yourself an office buddy.
12Recognize Their "Love Language"
You might think Love Languages are reserved for your partner only. But they can come in handy at work, too. As Russell says, "Knowing makes it a lot easier to understand how that person likes to be appreciated. For example, you may notice that a coworker feels good after someone [tells] them they did a great job, or you notice that another coworker feels good when someone shoots an email out acknowledging their hard work." If you can keep these little things stored in your brain, you can better cater your interactions with each coworker. And thus have a bonding experience.
13Try To "Mirror" Them
Have you ever heard of mirroring? It's a body language technique that can truly win people over. "Without realizing it when we feel connected to someone we start ... moving like them," career and business coach Tiffany Toombs tells Bustle. "To speed up the process of rapport building, we can make this a conscious habit."
And all it takes it copying their gestures every so slightly. "When you’re talking to a coworker, if they cross their legs, you follow suit and cross your legs. If they lean back in their chair, you do the same. Match their breathe rate. Their gestures. Their posture," Toombs says. "If you’re really good you can even match their blinking rate. Obviously you need to be subtle about this or you’ll look like a weirdo, but when done right this allows for rapport and connection to be built in record time."
14Volunteer To Help Them Out
While you should obviously focus on your own work and what you need to do, if you find yourself with extra time, go ahead and help a coworker out. "They will be very thankful, and it'll create an opportunity for you to work with them more closely and build a bond," Lee says. "Remember working on school projects with classmates and how you got inside jokes and felt closer to them afterwards? Same thing!"
15Have A Walking Meeting
"If you have a meeting with just one or two others, try doing a walking meeting," Lee says. "Having a walking meeting is good for your health and puts the meeting in a somewhat more casual context where people might get to know one another better." And, it might open up the possibility of stopping somewhere interesting for lunch, which is pretty much always a bonding moment.
Sometimes, coworkers can become really great friends, but it's not a requirement. By simply bonding with your coworkers — by being likable, open, positive, and interested — you can have a better work day, and a better work environment.