In the workplace it is common to use a professional tone when addressing others. For example, if you need other people’s input to complete your project, you might send out an email with your schedule, and the words “Please plan accordingly.” Great. Very professional.
The problem is that words like that don’t do much to influence other people. They don’t motivate others to do what is necessary to help your project. And when others aren’t motivated, their own projects will take top priority, leaving yours to get buried and be left undone.
Think about how you react to requests from others. When you get an anonymous request from another department that doesn’t tie in with your current short term goals, you are likely to push it to the bottom of the stack.
But if a person that you know well walks up to your desk to ask you a favor, it is hard to resist. You may grumble that you are busy, but more likely than not you will make an effort to get the task done.
Here are some tips to break down the wall of professionalism in the workplace and enable more collaboration.
Connect With Others
Instead of sending a cold, impersonal email with the message “Please plan accordingly”, a better approach is to make a personal connection with other people. Sure, send out the email with your schedule. But follow it up with a visit to your co-worker’s desk, or a phone call if they work remotely. Chat for a moment, establish a connection, then ask if they can work your needs into their tight schedule.
You may think that you don’t have the time to take these extra steps. But it is better to take the time now than to let your project slip because you neglected the personal touch.
Your co-workers are human beings and need to be treated as such. You might get away with anonymous dictates like “Please plan accordingly” when people have no choice but to do what you say. But for people who have a choice, even it if is only to prioritize other tasks over yours, you are better off with a more human approach.
Think about it. You are more likely to do a favor for a friend than for an anonymous stranger making a cold request. If someone cares enough to visit you at your desk you will automatically feel closer to them.
You should work to build rapport when you don’t need special consideration from others. Stop to chat for a moment at the coffee station. When passing people in the hall, have a friendly word.
Your goal should be to personally know every person that you need to work with, and even others that you don’t. The more people that you have a personal connection with, the better off you will be when you need something.
Double check your emails. Are you using an overly pompous and cold “professional” tone? Is there some way you could warm it up and make it more personal? Better yet, is this a conversation or point that could be more easily made by walking over to the person’s desk, or chatting in passing in the hallway?
In your emails try not to use cold, anonymous statements like “This needs to be done”. Instead, say something more personal, like “I need this from you.”
Know Your Customer
Pay attention when receiving requests from others. This can be a great chance to build rapport. Perhaps you can walk over and go over the details of what they have requested, to make sure you truly understand what is wanted.
Make sure that you deliver by their requested deadline, and perhaps have a quick follow up chat. Stick your head in their office door and tell them “I just sent you the report you requested.” then smile and go on your way.
Make Time For Others
Busy professional people often think they don’t have time to make connections. They think that taking an extra half-hour to have lunch with a co-worker, or fifteen minutes to take a coffee break together, can’t be worked into their busy schedule.
But by building relationships with key people now, you will save time in the future. When you need to ask that person for something in a crunch, you won’t need to take so much time to establish the relationship then. They will understand what you need, and feel personally invested in making it happen.
Ask other people to go to lunch with you, even if it is just to the company cafeteria. Don’t sit at your desk everyday gulping a sandwich because you are “too busy”. Understand the importance of the human connection, and make time. Even if you only have lunch or coffee with someone else once a month that is twelve more connections each year that you wouldn’t have made otherwise.
Praise Where You Can, But Be Authentic
It is good and helpful to call out things that you admire about other people, but do it in moderation. When overdone, it will sound insincere.
You might start a conversation with some small talk like “I liked the point you made in the meeting today.” But only say that if you really believe it. Don’t just pay compliments gratuitously.
People feel happier and more disposed to help you when they feel like you appreciate them
Remember Never To Criticize Publicly
This shouldn’t need saying, but if you have something to say that could be construed as critical, don’t walk over to the desk of a person sitting in an open area, like in a cubicle, and say it there. Instead, invite the person to a meeting behind closed doors. Nothing critical should be said in public.
Remember the saying “Praise publicly but criticize privately.”
As you tailor your communications to be more personal, you will see people start to react more favorably. You will be surprised at how far these little personal touches will take you.