Ask an expert: how to build a good rapport with your colleagues

Four things you can do to keep a positive reputation with your colleagues.

Many employees believe they have to worry about pleasing only their higher-ups; the reality is that your boss’s perception of you is largely going to be a reflection of how everybody else in the company sees you. If many, or even just a few, people see you in a negative light, your chances for success diminish significantly.

Lend a hand. Offer to assist another department head who’s visiting your office, give free advice to the newest hire, or take five minutes to proofread a colleague’s report. When you don’t have to share your time, energy or knowledge with someone but do anyway, you’ll earn that person’s lasting respect and loyalty.

Own your mistakes. Refusing to own up doesn’t make you seem more competent; it reveals cowardice, callousness and untrustworthiness. When you do own up to mistakes, your confession will be viewed as a sign of strength, not weakness, by your coworkers. Plus, you’ll be in a position to learn and improve.

Don’t complain about your job to your coworkers. There will be plenty of things you don’t like about your job. But complaining about them around the watercooler — even if you have a very sympathetic audience — is never a good idea. If your comments get back to your boss, she or he will think your behaviour is unprofessional and will wonder why you didn’t talk to her or him directly. Meanwhile, you’ll be creating a reputation for yourself as a whiner.

Don’t pick fights. Fighting makes people unproductive; it’s a huge waste of time and energy. Take the high road, even if you’re gritting your teeth the whole time. Don’t engage with people when you know they’re trying to push your buttons. Avoid subjects that could lead to heated arguments, such as religion and politics. Do everything you can to keep your professional reputation a drama-free zone.