Create Harmony in the Office

To find career success, experts say we must first navigate the winds of controversy that blow through an office. Helen Torres, executive director and CEO of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), a California advocacy and education organization dedicated to developing Latina leaders, shares time-tested tips that help you keep the harmonious environment where your talents -- not your tensions -- can flourish.

1. Maintain a professional attitude. Small offices tend to become informal settings. “Be consistent about things you can easily control, such as greeting your colleagues every morning, dressing appropriately and meeting deadlines,” says Torres. “You may become friends, but deadlines are still there at the end of the day.”

2. Be clear about your job description. “Office output runs smoothly when each person knows the specific tasks they have to complete,” says Torres. It’s helpful to check in with your supervisor to review new and old duties he or she may want to delegate. Otherwise, confusing scenarios and competition may rise from colleagues duplicating each other’s work.

3. Be a semi-Luddite. We’re not suggesting that you thrash your office computers. But do maintain a human level of interpersonal communication. As workers increasingly rely on email and instant messaging to communicate, the opportunities for misunderstanding also rise. “People attach emotions to emails, so check in to make sure that person understands what you are saying,” says Torres.

4. Be a team player. Nothing brings down office morale like critical remarks about a coworker can. Keep the work environment a gossip-free zone by politely recusing yourself from a toxic conversation. “One person can help set a positive tone.”

by Shirley Velásquez