5 Things You May Get Wrong About Coworkers

Coworker Conversation
Photo by Zest Tea on Unsplash

The coworker relationship is one of the most interesting. I remember when I first graduated college and got a true full-time job. I had had jobs before. I had had interactions with coworkers before. But it was something new. The time spent together was much more than I had ever experienced.

And as time went by I started realizing that I was making assumptions about coworkers that didn’t always turn out to be correct. Sometimes I’d get something right, but mostly I was always learning more about the folks I was working with.

Here are some common things that seem to be missed with coworkers.

1. What Their Personal Lives Are Like

You get glimpses of what is going on with someone’s personal life. Stories about their family. Little anecdotes about what their kids are doing. Weekend plans and then stories that followup on how a weekend actually went.

The office is a lot like social media. You get a slice of the real thing. It’s what the person wants you to see and hear and not the entire reality most of the time. And even if they tell you their full understanding of the situation you’re still not getting all sides of the situation.

I’ve found that it’s best to assume that you don’t really know much about a person and their personal lives. Their struggles. Their fears. Their insecurities. You can get to know someone well. But it requires a lot of time. A lot of discussion. And not just about work.

2. The Details Of Their Job

Even if a coworker has the same role as you they may have different tasks. They may not do the job exactly the same way that you do. It’s easy to make assumptions about what a person is doing. Again, it’s a little like social media. We don’t get the full picture, but we fall into a trap of making assumptions. And usually we don’t get things right.

So we have to be careful about thinking that someone isn’t doing as good of a job. Or that they have it easier than us. We can’t see it all. We can’t see how hard they’re working or what effort they’re putting into it.

3. Other Projects They Have Going On

One thing I learned in my first experience in an office is that coworkers are often doing more than the job their title calls for. So even if you have the same title as someone else, you probably are working on different side projects. You probably share some or even most of the same tasks. But most companies have side projects going on all the time. And they assign different people to the different project teams.

And we often don’t see most or any of the work that goes into those projects if we’re not on the team. So, for example, it may seem that someone is busy or maybe missing a little on their main job. It could be that they’re working on a project that the boss deems very important at the moment.

4. Their Willingness To Help

Most people are willing to help. Humans are mostly collaborative. We like being in groups and working in groups. We recognize that two people working at something is usually better than one. It’s good to seek out help if you’re struggling with something at work. Seek out help from coworkers you know fairly well. But also reach out to those that you may not have spent much time with yet. Maybe it’s a new project you’ve been assigned. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Get information and help from others in the organization.

5. Their Personality Traits

The person we first meet isn’t often the person we get to know. Sometimes you can see the true character of a person early on. And you certainly don’t want to ignore any early red flags or first impressions. But take the time to get to know a coworker a little better. Learn their personality traits. They may seem shy upon early appearances. But once you get to know them they may open up with all kinds of great insights.


The workplace is always interesting. We spend a lot of time working. We spend a lot of time with our coworkers in many jobs. It’s important to get to know your coworkers. And we’re going to make assumptions. But know that what you know about a coworker likely isn’t the full story. Just knowing this can lead to better relationships and working situations.

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