Having great coworkers can be essential to your success on the job. When you get along well with your colleagues, you create a built-in support system of people you can learn from, ask for help, or vent to as needed.
Still, there's one key danger in having too comfortable a relationship with your coworkers: the distraction factor. This especially holds true if you work in an open office environment where you and your colleagues sit right on top of one another.
And then there's the influence factor. If your coworkers are slackers, their behavior might rub off on you, and their lack of motivation might prompt you to work less hard. In fact, in a study conducted a few years back by Taskworld, 50% of employees confirmed that their coworkers' performance impacts their own individual performance.
If you feel that your colleagues are negatively impacting your productivity, it's time to take charge of the situation before your output decreases noticeably and your boss catches on. Here's how.
1. Set some boundaries
It's hard to get work done when every time you look up, there's a chatty colleague just waiting to converse about the newest restaurant in town or the latest movie releases. If you've been getting distracted by your coworkers, you'll need to do your best to establish some boundaries so that those around you know when you're not to be disturbed.
If you sit in an open office, you might try slapping on a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Not only will these, as the name implies, block out the noise, but more importantly, they'll send the message to others that you're trying to concentrate and aren't particularly eager to chat.
Another option? Try camping out in unused meeting rooms when you're up against deadlines or really need to concentrate. Working in a closed-door environment here and there could help you make up for lost time at your regular desk.
Additionally, don't hesitate to be honest with your colleagues about your need to focus. If you're in the groove and someone comes over to chat, be polite but blunt. Explain that you're too busy to take a break and instead offer to grab lunch or a post-work drink to catch up. Any reasonable colleague will understand where you're coming from and won't get insulted, so take that worry out of the equation.
2. Ask to work solo
If the problem with your colleagues is that they're not the hardest-working bunch, you might ask your boss to assign you projects that don't require much in the way of collaboration. This way, other people's absent motivation won't impact your performance nearly as much.
Of course, this request is one you'll want to present delicately, since you don't want to be that person who calls out the rest of the team. So rather than talk up the fact that your colleagues tend to hold you back, affirm your desire to be more independent on the work front. Your boss might read between the lines, but this way, you're not actively bashing your coworkers.
3. Try doing your job from home
If your colleagues are making it difficult to do your job at the office, you can ask your boss for the option to work from home several days a week. This is an especially reasonable request if closed-door space in your office is limited, and the nature of your work tends to demand a certain level of concentration. You can also make the case for working from home if your boss does assign you a number of solo projects that really don't require your coworkers' input.
It's important to establish a strong relationship with your colleagues, and it's even OK to befriend them. But if you come to find that they're ruining your productivity, you'll need to address the problem before your performance suffers. The last thing you want is to compromise your job or destroy your chances of getting promoted because of the people around you.