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How to Be A Supportive Colleague

The working environment can sometimes be a difficult one, especially when different personality types, skillsets, backgrounds and sense of humours come together in a space where the expectation is productivity and results. No one wants to be labelled as the difficult or unapproachable colleague, but thankfully such opinions are often due to misunderstandings and clashes that can be combatted by a few simple changes. Since most change is brought on by people, we believe that you can get one step closer to creating the working culture you desire by making sure you adopt the role of ‘supportive colleague’. Below are a few pointers to help you out.

Learn to listen

When you are irritated by a situation or have a strong opinion on something, it can be incredibly difficult to keep quiet. Your instinct may be to rant and moan, to lecture the person responsible or to keep on speaking until you’re convinced everyone agrees with your thoughts, but a supportive colleague learns to listen. This doesn’t mean you have to become a pushover, but keeping your thoughts to yourself will enable others to speak out and voice their concerns. It’s important that your colleagues feel listened to in all situations, good and bad, as when you hear – really hear – what’s going through their mind, you will be able to effectively support them and find a solution to the problem at hand.

Be a team player

Remember, being a part of a team doesn’t automatically make you a team player. A team player is someone who is reliable in all situations, they can be trusted to do their job and they create positive working relationships with others. They communicate properly and regularly, and they respect the opinions of others. A team player will naturally go above and beyond, they will embrace change and they will show genuine commitment to colleagues and the work at hand. If you want to be a supportive colleague, don’t shut yourself away and keep your cards close to your chest. Share your ideas, invite the ideas of others and trust that working together is stronger than going it alone.

Empower others

Being able to motivate and inspire others is a worthy attribute in a colleague but why don’t you go a step further by empowering others? If you know a colleague is going through a tough time or having a bad day, seek to empower them instead of trying to motivate them. You can do this by reminding them of their strengths and capabilities, by sharing how much it means to have them working with you and how much you admire what they are able to bring to the table. Offering genuine compliments and giving general encouragement is a great way to empower someone, but you should also go a step further by trusting them with tasks or by asking them to share their ideas or insights.

Ask for advice

As already mentioned, everyone has different skills and abilities to offer the working environment and it is important to actively acknowledge when other people can give something in an area you are lacking. If you are working on a project or activity and you know a colleague could help you, don’t let pride stop you from reaching out. Ask them for their advice and ideas as this shows a willingness to work together that will pay off later down the line.

Offer advice when asked

If the roles are reversed and you find a colleague approaching you for advice, make sure you don’t shut them down. It may have been hard for that colleague to approach you to begin with and making yourself approachable is high up there on the supportive colleague radar. When someone does ask for your help, don’t be half-hearted in your answers and don’t be cryptic in your advice. Try and be as clear and concise as possible as this will help everyone involved.

Identify the root cause

If you are faced with any kind of conflict or sticky situation, or if a team member is acting out of character, it’s important to figure out the root cause of the problem before you jump to any conclusions. It may be an idea to speak to the people involved privately, so that you can get a clear and honest picture of what’s going on. Remember to listen and only interject when you need to ask questions to get more information. Once the issue has been identified, you should be able to address the situation quickly, but if the root cause goes beyond the walls of the workplace, try and help as best you can – often a sounding board is all someone needs!

Enjoy non-shop talk

When it’s all work and no play, colleagues will think that you’re not really interested in who they are as a person. Show colleagues that this is not the case by asking them about their weekends, their holidays and their relationships (when appropriate), and be willing to share similar information about yourself with them as well. This will strengthen your working relationship as you will begin to build a mutual trust, but you may also make a genuine friend for life!

Do you have any tops for being a supportive colleague? Let us know in the comments.

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