Do Your Colleagues Have Your Back?

Gears of Teamwork

We’ve all been there.

It’s 5 pm and you’re facing a deadline on a big project. At the last moment, you realize you need some information from a colleague. There’s no getting around it – without this information you will fail to complete the task at hand.

So you compose a quick email asking for an end-of-the-day favor. After hitting ‘send,’ you wait, wondering ‘will they respond?’

In situations like this, your chances of getting a response with the information you need will be determined by your relationship with this and other colleagues.

Are you someone that responds promptly to emails from co-workers? Do you willingly lend a hand to other people’s projects, and are you generous with your time? Do you try to create opportunities for face time so that you are not just an email address to your colleagues? Most importantly, have you helped a colleague that made a similar request in the past?

If you answer no to any of those questions, then your chances of getting a response will be greatly diminished. It may seem obvious, but you need to cultivate relationships with co-workers to ensure that when you need someone else’s help, they are willing to jump in and lend a hand because they know you would do the same.

This is critically important information for anyone working in a large organization. Thanks to email, it is so easy to ask for a favor and also easy to inadvertently sour our relationships with recipients. There are hidden messages behind every message we send out into the ethernet that will shape our relationships and determine whether co-workers have our back.

In fact, the business of asking for favors via email has spawned a lot of discussion and debate, with some commentators feeling that it's necessary to remind us that common courtesy and the basic precepts of civility are still relevant even in the digital age.

Why would we need to be reminded of things like that? Email has become so pervasive, it has swiftly and easily replaced interactions that were previously conducted face-to-face. The absence of that direct contact means that it is much easier to misconstrue or take offense with the meta messages inadvertently embedded in our emails.

Beyond the tone and style of our emails, however, we must embrace the idea that when we work for an organization, we are automatically part of a team. And on a team, you get as much discretionary effort and support as you put in.

Acknowledge that every person you interact with at work may be someone that you need to ask for help at some point in the future. When one of those people contacts you for help, respond quickly and fully. Remember that every favor you do for someone builds up a credit account with co-workers from which you can make withdrawals.

And that’s a very good resource to have at your fingertips at 5 pm when you’re facing an important deadline on a big project.

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