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[This article was originally posted at onelegal.com and is printed here with full permission of the author.]
Getting along with colleagues can sometimes be easier said than done. While everyone’s job is focused on the practice of law, personal differences sometimes outnumber similarities, and disparities in temperament, work ethic, efficiency, and general work habits can cause friction among colleagues and undermine the success of the law firm.
Although you can’t – and shouldn’t try to – be everyone’s friend, with some effort, it is possible to have a positive work relationship with all members of your legal team. Here are some ways to help facilitate a collaborative law firm work environment:
Make a good first impression
If you are starting a new job, focus on getting off to a good start with coworkers. Everyone has had a “first day,” and it will take time to get to know your coworkers, but a good first impression is the best way to start your relationship. Be friendly and show that you are willing to learn.
Research from Psychology Today discusses “Predictive Outcome Value Theory,” the idea that:
“During an initial conversation, we form a positive or negative judgment about forming a future relationship with a person. The theory argues, and research supports, that if we form positive judgments, then we will communicate more with this person and seek more information. Conversely, if we form a negative judgment, we will restrict our communication.”
This first impression can plant the seed that will hopefully blossom into a collaborative work environment.
Adopt a team mentality
Working at a law firm involves being part of a team. Every role is essential, from the senior partner to the support staff. Make an effort to get along with all employees, and avoid treating one member differently than another according to rank or supposed level of importance.
Be a good listener
Ever wonder how balanced your conversations are? Do others enjoy talking with you, or do they feel overshadowed? Try to spend one-third of conversations speaking and two-thirds listening. Remember that listening is an active practice that involves focusing intently on what is being said. Train yourself to pay attention to what your colleague is saying without getting distracted.
Being a good listener at work can give you a boost in productivity, fewer misunderstandings, better progress toward goals, and stronger relationships with your coworkers.
Avoid office politics
Office gossip, taking sides in a dispute, and complaining about others happens to some extent in any place where people are working closely together for long periods of time. But you can avoid getting tangled in office politics and keep from being the person who instigates. Try changing the subject or focusing on the positive if gossip comes up. Avoid sharing personal or job-related issues with colleagues who may not keep the information to themselves. If all else fails, claim a deadline and just walk away.
Not everyone looks or thinks the way you do—and that’s a good thing. Today’s law firms employ people who are diverse in background, race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and age. These aspects should always be celebrated and respected and every employee treated with dignity, consideration, and respect.
According to Entrepreneur, diversity benefits the workplace by driving innovation, increasing creativity, and improving access to the market. When firms can access a variety of ideas and experiences, they are better equipped to understand and anticipate their clients.
Have a can-do attitude
According to Canadian Lawyer Magazine, “Attitude is everything. Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.”
During stressful times at a law firm, you can help reduce friction among coworkers, by demonstrating a willingness to work with everyone and anyone to get the job done. Offer your assistance whenever you can, and show that no task is beneath you.
Aim for harmony at work
Discord at work is, unfortunately, all too prevalent. Discourage negative workplace interactions and do your part to build a harmonious relationship with your coworkers. Show that you are a team player, that you are not interested in generating strife or contributing to bad feelings. Keep in mind that little things, such as a genuine thank you, can go a long way to creating comfort, rapport, and trust in the workplace.
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