Q: During my last performance review, my manager told me that I need to improve my interpersonal relationships. Some of my co-workers apparently said that I don't talk to them enough. I actually am a friendly person, but at work my only goal is to get my tasks completed. In my opinion, we're here to do a job, not waste a lot of time chatting and joking.
My manager recently assigned me to a new team, so I now have a chance to change his opinion of my communication skills. I'm hoping this will result in a better review next time. How can I get off to a good start with this group?
A: You and your former colleagues provide a perfect illustration of a common personality difference. Some people naturally gravitate toward tasks, while others are drawn to social interaction. Task-oriented folks, like yourself, are often more successful when they invest some time in building relationships.
If your new teammates also tend to be worker bees, then you should have no trouble being accepted. But if this is another bunch of social butterflies, you may need to make a special effort to fit in. For example, when you see co-workers chatting, take a few minutes to join the conversation. If they regularly eat lunch together, don't have a solitary meal at your desk.
To determine whether you have succeeded in changing your boss's perceptions, ask him for feedback at regular intervals. This will allow you to make appropriate course corrections and avoid unpleasant surprises at review time.
Q: I have a co-worker who often neglects her assigned tasks. Our boss recently gave everyone a written summary of their responsibilities, and I would like to get a copy of hers. How can I ask for this without raising suspicions?
A: Your desire to scrutinize this woman's job description is rather puzzling, since that won't really accomplish anything. From your perspective, the only relevant question is whether her laziness adversely affects your own work.
If so, you should talk with either her or your boss about the problems you are experiencing. But if not, then you have no reason to be concerned about her activities. Monitoring your co-worker's job performance is her manager's responsibility, not yours.
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