At work, what can get a person in trouble with colleagues? Is it when he doesn’t replenish paper in the photocopier? Is it when she leaves a dirty dish in the kitchen sink to soak? Is it when he doesn’t say “hello” in the morning?
Are these things annoying? Yes. But are they the kind of actions that will give you a poor reputation in the office? Not really, at least so long as they are an occasional slip-up.
What can really rankle colleagues is when they are treated in a demeaning way. Unlike the photocopier or the dirty dish, which are passing annoyances, being treated in a dismissive or demeaning way sticks with the aggrieved person—and those who witness it—for a long time. It damages a reputation.
Here are four actions that cross the line; unforgettable actions that have a long-term impact on how discounting ideas, others view you.
Interrupting. Your colleague is in mid-sentence when you step in and start talking right over her. “Jane, let me explain the reason why…” You’ve just insulted Jane by not showing her the respect she deserves and not letting her finish. When you interrupt a person, you are saying, “You aren’t important. I am.”
Ignoring. You’re involved in a discussion with your team. Yet, throughout the discussion, you don’t look at John; you don’t draw him into the conversation; and if he tries to say something, you don’t acknowledge him. He and the others wonder why you think he isn’t there at all
Discounting ideas. As Gretchen starts outlining her conclusions, you chime in, “That’s simply not important, here’s what matters.” She is on the team to contribute, but you have just told her what she thinks is unimportant. She and the others see exactly what’s going on: you think you are superior, smarter and more important than everyone else on the team.
Not introducing people. You’re at the water cooler enjoying a ten-minute break. The new person you met recently approaches to join you and your friend. Instead of introducing him and bringing him into the conversation, you continue talking to your friend as though the newcomer isn’t even there. The newcomer can either leave or introduce himself. Either way he’s not going to forget that you didn’t think he was worth introducing to your colleague.
One of the most effective ways to combat a superior attitude is to be a good listener. Focus on the person; nod your head occasionally, ask a follow-up question or restate a point the person makes, offer a compliment. When you are a good listener you show respect for others, which, in turn, helps you build strong positive relationships in your place of work. The benefit to you: the respect of your colleagues.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.