Every company has one: that colleague (or boss) who is hard to work with. You dread any interaction with them because they seem too self-absorbed, scattered, or guarded, and go to great lengths to avoid collaborating with them. Worse, they seem clueless that others perceive them this way.
There are always two ways of doing things: the easy way and the hard way. And your career will be far less taxing on you if you go out of your way to make it easy for others to work with you.
Here are five ways you’re making it hard to work with you (and how to fix it):
1. You tend to skew negative.
I hate to break it to you, but what you consider being “realistic” may be repelling others. It’s tough to get ahead in business if people are always guarded around you. You could be the best at what you do, but if you appear to be angry or intense (both easy to do when you’re negative), people will notice and naturally become defensive and closed off.
By contrast, those who lead with positivity help others feel more relaxed in their presence, naturally drawing them in. Something as simple as smiling signals that you’re approachable and kind, making you appear more likable, confident, and trustworthy. This means you’ll also have an easier time connecting with others, whether it’s fostering team collaboration or forging a new business partnership. And when people feel comfortable, they’re more receptive to you and your ideas, so you become a more persuasive leader.
2. You’re closed-minded.
News flash: If you find yourself saying things like, “We’ve always done it this way,” it’s a red flag that you’re resistant to change—and that people in your orbit will go out of their way to avoid you. In pre-pandemic times, that wasn’t a great attitude, but now that we’re in the second wave of Covid, your rigidity is a liability. At a time when every person and company is pivoting and adapting, the ability to embrace what’s beyond the status quo is crucial.
Instead, adjust your perspective to see new ideas not as threats but as opportunities for growth and improvement. Those who possess intellectual humility aren’t married to their views and delight in being wrong because they know it means they’ll learn something new. When you’re open-minded, you’re curious, receptive to, and tolerant of new ideas and people. And your openness builds trust naturally, which allows you to connect with others more easily.
3. You’re an enigma (and not in a mysterious, cool way).
If you don’t or can’t articulate why others should work with you, and people don’t understand who you are, what you do, the value you bring, and how you can help, you force them to do the work (i.e., make it hard for them) to decipher the mystery that is you. (Spoiler alert: they probably won’t bother.)
When you confuse, you lose—potential opportunities, clients, projects, promotions, and partners. This is most unfortunate, particularly when this is something easily remedied through clarity.
When you’re clear, everything becomes easier. People understand you, what you offer, your value, what differentiates you, how you can help them, and how they can assist you. Clarity helps others know, like, and trust you, making it easy to work with you.
4. You wing it—a lot.
We’ve all been there: overwhelmed by projects and time-poor, crossing our fingers that we won’t come across as unprepared as we feel.
On occasion, there are a select few who can successfully b.s. their way through a pitch or client meeting. But when you make it a habit, you send a signal to others involved that you’re disorganized and disinterested and haven’t made it a priority. Worse, you’re also stressing out your colleagues, who are hoping they won’t have to pick up your slack—again.
To avoid this in the future, focus on managing your time and prioritizing those things that matter most. Eliminate distractions and say no to those activities and tasks that don’t serve your larger goal. When you’re intentional with your time, you’re more mindful and present, which will help you be more prepared—and easier to work with.
5. You’re oblivious.
It’s one thing to be in your own world, and it’s another to be completely oblivious to those around you, to your environment and, worse, your behavior, blindly making your way through the world, never entirely understanding why you’re not progressing in your career.
If you’re always the last to know or seem to be caught off guard frequently, it’s a sign that you need to cultivate your awareness.
Being self-aware means you have a clear understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. But it’s not just about knowing how you move through the world, but also how your energy affects others. It allows you to understand that everything is connected—your interactions with other people, how they perceive you, your attitude, and your responses to them in the moment—and all can be enhanced through better self-awareness.
Honing your powers of observation is essential for increasing your awareness of others and situations, and that’s nearly impossible to do when you’re multi-tasking. The next time you’re with a colleague, put down your phone, move away from your computer and give them your undivided attention. Listen to understand what they’re saying, instead of using that time to formulate what to say next.
These simple actions demonstrate that you’re focused on them and that they matter, which will improve your communications and relationships, making you far easier to work with than a clueless colleague or competitor.