How to win friends and influence people in the world of work

Written by
Chris Meredith

26 Apr 2016

26 Apr 2016 • by Chris Meredith

Home from home

It’s only to be expected, when for eight or nine hours every day you’re forced into close proximity with a whole bunch of people you may not otherwise choose to associate with. Unspoken rules mean that you’re compelled to be polite even when others don’t always manage it, and you find yourself false-laughing at jokes that actually make you die a little inside.  We all – well, almost all – have to work though, and one of the simplest ways to survive it is to try to make genuine friends, and to learn how to influence people. 

Ok, so the first point is that you can’t force friendship – you don’t want to be the weird guy in the corner who everyone avoids after the unsolicited sharing incident – but there are things that you can do to ease things along, and with friendship often comes influence.  

Stay positive

It’s obvious, but a positive attitude can help in both these areas. No one can be cheery all the time – and to be honest, people would find it annoying if you were! – but maintaining positivity, being able to laugh through problems rather than whining about them, can be a good way to lift other people’s spirits, and if they’re feeling happier they’ll be more likely to think happier thoughts about you. 

Finding common ground is another good place to begin. Think about your ‘real-life’ friendships; most of them would have started with a shared interest, the same applies at work. Whether it’s supporting the same football team, having kids of a similar age, or a passion for a particular food, book, film, or hobby, there is bound to be one shared factor to build a friendship around. 

Finally, be open to other people; making friends isn’t one-sided, so when other people talk, make sure that you actually listen. 

Of course, it’s also worth remembering that one of the easiest ways to gain friends is not to make any enemies, and in the workplace it’s the littlest gripes than can be blown out into the biggest proportions. A recent study that we conducted at revealed that co-worker’s lunches caused real contention. 80% of office-based workers had very strong feelings on the subject, saying that they felt that eating strong-smelling foods in the workplace was unprofessional… Presumably, the other 20% were those doing the eating!
Seven in ten of the people spoken to went so far as to say that eating foods such as burgers, curries and fries at work was annoying, rude and enough to make them angry, so beware your lunchbreak choices when you’re seeking to make a good impression. 

Be an influencer

Once you’ve secured that good impression, it’s time to start gaining influence. You’ll forgive me if this sounds a little Machiavellian, but influence is power. You may not want to be the future head of the board of trustees, or even the office manager, but if you have influence it’s easier to get your voice heard on the occasions when it matters. 
To gain influence you need to gain trust and you can do this by acting consistently and openly, and behaving honestly. Pay attention to what is going on around you, so you can be flexible when a situation dictates and assertive – never aggressive – when it’s called for, and let your actions speak for themselves.
Seeking to gain influence in the workplace is often considered negatively; it’s something done by those who are only out for themselves. You’re power-hungry with delusions of importance. You think that you’re better than everyone else. Truthfully, having a little influence can be a very good thing. As a manager, influence means that work is done because you asked for it, not because you demanded it, but influence isn’t restricted to the upper echelons. Gaining influence with peers simply means that you can help everyday activities run more smoothly, build a feeling of comradeship, and make work that little bit more enjoyable. 

The people you work with often come down to the luck of the draw, but with a bit of effort worthwhile relationships can be formed, making the years of our lives that we spend at work far more fulfilling.