6 reasons why you should be a more considerate colleague and coworker

Clea Grady

Jan 2023 ⋅ 4 min read

Two men and a woman sitting at an outside table having an informal meeting and drinking coffee

It’s a new year, the time where we all make resolutions to do better. But how often do those same resolutions extend to what most of us do with the majority of our time: our work?

Sure, you might decide to go for that promotion or pluck up the courage to ask for a raise.  You might even consider getting a new job. But have you ever asked yourself how you could be a better colleague, or how you can be a better person at work in general?

And we’re not talking about hitting targets or working late. This is about how you treat the people working alongside you — in essence, bringing a version of yourself to work that you'd want to work with.

People often talk about not judging someone based on how little you know about them, and this is especially true in the workplace. So taking the time to think about how many plates our colleagues could be spinning will help you to be a more considerate colleague in 2023 and beyond.

What sort of thing are we talking about? Here are a few scenarios to get you thinking:

1. Part-time colleagues with caring responsibilities outside of work

There are many reasons people choose to work part-time, but it’s a logical (and sometimes the only) option when you’re responsible for the care of someone else.

“Part-timer” is often used in a jokey or derogatory way by some full-time workers, but the truth is that your part-time colleagues probably have a lot more going on outside of work than you realise.

Whether they care for a child, an elderly or unwell parent or in-law, or someone else, it’s possible that they’re juggling more than just work. Being mindful of this means not assuming that your part-time colleagues have their feet up on the days when they’re not in. In fairness, they’re probably busier outside of work than when they’re on the rota!

2. Pressure on your HR team (to be everything to everyone)

It’s possible to overlook the fact that our HR colleagues care for all the staff at work, while simultaneously looking after themselves and their own families.

In fact, a recent article in HR magazine talked about HR being “the first line of support for the most challenging of human experiences” and highlighted the toll that it takes on those working in the profession.

HR assistants and managers often assume a role similar to that of a counsellor or therapist. They support employees throughout all sorts of events and situations — both non-work and work-related — which is tiring, stressful, and can negatively impact their own mental health.  So the next time you see someone from your HR team, remember to ask them how they are.

After all, HR are people too.

3. Managers who are doing their best to instigate change

Employees can be guilty of projecting their frustrations about internal processes onto their manager, but companies are made up of layers of command and change can take time — even when it’s needed and necessary.

If you’re struggling to understand a delay, or feeling demotivated by a seeming lack of progress, use the channels available to you to communicate your thoughts to your manager in a useful way. Nearly everything at work is improved by better communication, so take the time to brainstorm the problems before you meet, and consider some potential solutions that you could be a part of.  

More senior managers, culture, and administrative red tape are all possible barriers to your own supervisor implementing change — so put yourself in their shoes and consider the matter from a different perspective. This is likely to improve your working relationship with your line manager and help develop your own critical thinking: a really useful skill if you have ambitions for your own career progression.

4. A colleague who’s struggling with their mental health

These past few years have been tough on everyone, and even those who might normally experience positive mental health may have struggled or be struggling.

As we’re all growing more aware of, how someone appears on the surface doesn’t always accurately reflect how they’re feeling. Sometimes it’s our extroverted, ‘happy’ colleagues who find things particularly tough.

The people we work with can hugely influence our mental health — for good or bad. So be kind to your colleagues and careful with your words.
And if you’re interested in being a more active supporter, you could talk to your line manager about becoming a workplace mental health first aider.

5. Colleagues dealing with unexpected or upsetting life events

Bad things happen, but we have to keep coming to work and paying our bills. And that can be really hard sometimes.

It’s highly likely that at any one moment several of your colleagues have stuff going on outside of work that’s making life harder for them. Health scares, divorce, moving house and bereavements are all incredibly stressful, and can be all consuming.

If you see a change in someone’s demeanour or appearance it might indicate they’ve got tough stuff going on. If you know them well enough, reach out and offer them support. The simple act of making someone a cup of tea can make someone feel valued!

And if you’re genuinely worried about someone, speak with their manager or someone in HR.

6. Growing anxiety around the cost of living crisis

Almost everybody’s worried about the cost of living. The new year is always a financially tighter time, but now people are receiving the first of their big bills right on the back of Christmas.

So don’t pretend it’s not happening. We come to work to earn money, so talk about the problem we’re collectively facing and try to offer support wherever you can.

When you stop to think about it, being a considerate colleague is just common sense and can be distilled into a single message:

bring the version of yourself to work that you’d want to work with.

One final pro-tip: be aware of the different ways you communicate with your colleagues. Tone can easily be misinterpreted or misunderstood if you use digital channels like WhatsApp, text or Slack, which can cause bad feeling.

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