One of the tolls of the economic crisis is that employees are working harder and longer. They are doing their jobs—in addition to the work of the people who have been let go.  These responsibilities have produced longer hours, increased stress and scant sense of appreciation.  And the low end of the office harmony scale has gone from acceptable to barely tolerable. 

The best ways to thrive—rather than just survive—this downshift in the workday attitude include:

  • Reading people better
  • Working more efficiently
  • Strategizing for recognition

Here are some key tips to achieve each of these goals.

Reading People Better

Most of us have a sense of what our supervisors and colleagues think about us and our abilities.  But it's important to sharpen our awareness and understanding of behavioral cues so that we can then know how to improve our relationships and success at work.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I get invited to office social group events such as lunch, impromptu chats or after-hour celebrations?

2. Am I "in the loop" regarding behind the scenes office conversations?

3. Do I know how my colleagues feel about my abilities?  Do they ask for my advice, for example?


Building good work relationships is crucial to elevating your overall mood and to forging strategic alliances.  For example, one day a co-worker could become your boss! Being informed about backroom decisions can help you plan your future plans.  Now that you've answered the questions above, here are some tips to help you use your observations.

1. Do favors. Make a list of each employee's important events such as birthdays, anniversaries, interests or family situations such as illnesses and births. Then make sure you send your best wishes to them in person or in an email card. Even better, get everyone together in the office to sign a card.  Bring in delicious cookies and other treats. (However, it's important to remember that at any given time someone is always dieting!)

2. Be a role model. Never gossip and, in general, don't confuse work friends with best buddies. Be "friendly to all, a friend to none."  These efforts will more likely establish you as a respected and trusted colleague. You never know when a person can "turn on you."

3. Stay positive. Don't become the "office grumbler."  Instead, build respect amongst your colleagues by praising others and asking others for their advice.  When you ask a person for help and advice, you are silently saying to that person, "I like you, I respect you." Remember: people love to be asked for their two-cents worth.  People tend to like people who like them!  You never know when a colleague needs to put together a team for the next big project.  Strategize so that you are on that person's list.

Working More Efficiently

As work becomes less appealing, we often tend to procrastinate. Soon, the workload expands to fill the time.  The result is that you feel exhausted, disgruntled and pessimistic about making positive changes.  If these sound like you, ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I find myself putting off doing the most unpleasant assignments?

2. Am I spending more time checking out my social network sites, personal emails or shopping sites?

3. Is it taking me longer to finish the least desirable tasks?


Working more effectively not only can get you the attention of your boss, it also increases your perceived value amongst your colleagues.  Here are some tips.

1. Take small, time-limited steps.  One of the best ways to complete a difficult or unpleasant task is to limit and time your work bursts.  Buy an egg timer, set it for about 15 minutes and start working without stopping or editing.  Just keep going until the buzzer sounds.  Get up, stretch or put your head down for about a minute or two and then reset the buzzer and start on another small section.

2. Start with the difficult, end with the easy. Most of us work on the easy part first and work until we face a difficult part.  When you use this approach, you make re-engagement in the task more difficult.  After all, who wants to go through the procrastination again!  Instead, start with the least desirable task and stop when the next starting point is an easy one.

2. Build in rewards. After you complete tasks is the time to reward yourself with a chat, a quick check of your emails or a coffee break.  Earn your breaks.

3. Get a buddy. Recruit a colleague or friend as your external cheerleader. For example, tell a co-worker that you will form a buddy system where you will check in with each other during the next hour to see how much progress you've made on a given task.  Building a buddy system both helps keep you on track and establishes a positive and valued view of you.

Strategizing for Recognition

Everyone wants to be on the good side of the boss--especially if you don't like him.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Do I get the worst assignments?

2. Am I praised for my work?

3. Do I feel isolated and under-appreciated?


Get proactive about your career.  Here are some tips for reading--and utilizing--your work situation to your advantage.

1. Know your work culture. No effort is smart unless it fits in well with your work environment. Some workplaces are casual and accept "stairwell conferences" as legitimate. Other companies rely on face-to-face appointments while others prefer email communications.  Read your situation and follow it.

2. Keep a success journal. Keep track of your accomplishments. Did you exceed your goal? Make new contacts? 

3. Communicate your successes. Send a memo, email or make an appointment with your supervisor to let him or her know about your accomplishment.  Don't wait for the year-end review!  By educating others about your success, you change their perception of you.

4. Offer help. When your colleague or other supervisors are on "overload," offer to help. Say that you completed your goal in record time and have time to help. You will increase your value.  Offer to sit in on planning meetings, for example.  These efforts will showcase your other, often unrecognized, abilities.

Over time, all these solutions create a strategy that will help you read people, work more happily and effectively and increase your success at work.  Especially, you will establish a new persona so that people will read you differently!