How to Get Along With Your Coworkers

7 ways to improve your workplace relationships

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Photo: Tom Merton / Getty Images

Since you may spend more time with your coworkers than with anyone else, it is essential to have at least a decent relationship with them. Hopefully, it will be even better than that. Harmonious workplace relationships can make going to work a pleasure and help boost your career.

According to a survey by Olivet Nazarene University, 82% of Americans in full-time jobs say they consider someone at work to be a friend. While on average respondents said they saw 41% of their colleagues just as coworkers, they saw 35% as either only-at-work friends or real friends. Only 2% were seen as enemies.

While you don't necessarily have to be friends with colleagues, you do need to have positive relationships with them. Follow these tips to get along with your coworkers.

Key Takeaways

  • Getting along with colleagues can not only make working more pleasant, it can also help boost your career.
  • Relationship-building starts on your first day in a new job.
  • Good manners, respect, and general kindness toward your colleagues go a long way.
  • Resist oversharing or talking about sensitive topics that can alienate colleagues.
  • Stay away from gossiping about colleagues.

Build Good Relationships From the Start

Building strong bonds takes time, but it begins on your very first day at a new job. Get things off to a good start by being friendly to everyone you meet. If you find it difficult to make small talk, remember that a warm smile goes a long way.

Ask questions and graciously accept help and advice when others offer it. If you get invited to join others for lunch, go. It'll give you a chance to get to know your colleagues and let them know you're interested in building relationships with them.

Once you get your feet wet, don't be afraid to offer to pitch in and help others when they need it. Showing initiative and helpfulness from the get-go can go a long way toward making a great first impression.

Respect Your Colleagues

You don't have to be friends with all your colleagues, but you must demonstrate respect for one another. The primary way to do this is to avoid doing offensive things.

For example, clean up after yourself, don't take anyone else's food from the refrigerator, call out sick when necessary to keep from spreading your illness, and don't steal credit for someone else's work. If a coworker tells you that a particular behavior annoys them, try your best to avoid it unless the request is unreasonable.

Don't Bring Up Cringe-Worthy Topics

Sometimes colleagues become friends, at least while at work. It's great if you are entirely at ease with them, but be wary of feeling so comfortable that you don't think any subjects should be off limits. Some topics can cause awkwardness, and therefore you should avoid them, especially if you're not close friends.

Some controversial subject matters, for example, politics and religion, could even incite arguments that might lead to discord in the workplace. Others, like your sex life, may cause embarrassment. Wait until you're with your friends and family to discuss them outside the workplace.

Find A Way to Get Along With Everyone, Even the Most Difficult People

The saying "you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family" should be expanded to include coworkers. You can't choose them either. A few—hopefully not too many—may be difficult (just like some of your relatives).

Regardless of how annoying they may be, find a way to get along with everyone, whether it's a chatterbox, a  gossip, a delegator, a complainer, or a credit grabber. It will make your life much more pleasant.

Practice Good Office Etiquette

Good manners are needed on the job as much as they are anywhere. Remember this whenever you are around your coworkers and always be polite to them.

When making phone calls, either personal ones on your cellphone or job-related calls in your cubicle, don't distract anyone who is trying to work. Keep your voice down and have personal conversations in private.


Use proper etiquette when writing to colleagues, too—whether it's via email or instant messaging. Always say "please" when making a request and don't drive your coworkers crazy by hitting "reply all" to a group email when only the sender needs to see your response.

Be mindful of proper table manners when eating lunch with your coworkers. For example, don't tend to matters of personal hygiene at the table (put the dental floss away), keep your cellphone in your purse or pocket, and don't be rude to waitstaff. 

Be Kind to Your Coworkers

You should be helpful to your coworkers all the time, but also perform random acts of kindness that catch them off guard. For example, bring a colleague coffee and a cookie on a dreary afternoon or offer to stay late to help him or her complete a big project with a looming deadline.

Don't Spread Malicious Gossip

Spreading gossip at work will get you into trouble, whether the information you share is accurate or a rumor. Although it may be tempting to share juicy details, resist the urge to talk about your coworkers. Doing so will result in your appearing to be untrustworthy and leave everyone worried they could be your next subject.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you get along with difficult coworkers?

Most of us have to deal with difficult people at work at some point in our careers. First, check yourself: Are you really sure this person is a problem and you're not overreacting? Could it be that you have hot buttons that you need to work on yourself?

If not, explore ways to address the situation. If you decide you need to act, ask to have a private discussion with the difficult colleague, then explain what you're feeling and how it impacts you. Try to remain pleasant and agreeable as you talk to them. They may not be aware of what they're doing or how it's impacting you. Try to reach an agreement about supportive actions going forward.

What is okay to share with coworkers?

It's easiest to talk about what you shouldn't share. Sensitive topics include religion, politics, your sex life, troubles at home, intimate details about health problems. You should also avoid frequently sharing complaints about work or talking about how much you want to move up or move out of the organization.

Some of these are fine to talk about if you've established close friendships with colleagues, but you may want to share them in private or away from work.

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  1. Olivet Nazarene University. "Research on Friends at Work."

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