Keep your ’emotional bank account’ full

smiling piggy bankProfessional greatness isn’t just about the work. It’s also about interpersonal skills, which are critical to being an awesome employee.

“The issues most people struggle with have little to do with our ability to do the work,” says Quint Studer, author of The Great Employee Handbook: Making Work and Life Better. “It’s all the things that happen around the work. … It’s whether we make life easier for our co-workers or more difficult.”

He offers these four workplace secrets from his book:

1.  There’s no substitute for being liked. Do you greet people with a smile each morning? Do you bring breakfast for everyone once in a while? Do you say happy birthday?

There are many little ways to make deposits in the “emotional bank account” at work. These deposits have a big, big impact, and they reduce the pain of the inevitable withdrawals.

“Go out of your way to make people happy when you can and they’ll forgive you when you make a mistake,” he says. “These things are not that hard to do; it’s just that we don’t always think to do them. When you start looking for ways to be a positive force in your co-workers’ lives, you’ll be amazed by how many there are—and what a difference they make.”

2.  Last-minute requests can derail your day. It’s not easy when co-workers constantly ask you for “five minutes of your time” (which really means 15 minutes or longer).

“When you’re good at what you do, everyone wants a piece of you,” says Studer. “That’s good, but it can also lead others to take advantage of you, even if they don’t mean to. If you don’t stop last-minute re­­questers, your own work will eventually suffer.”

Be more open with others about how long a task takes and how much notice you need to get it done.

“When you educate others,” he says, “you not only relieve your own burden; you help them do their work better.”

3.  Resolve co-worker issues one-on-one. Taking a conflict to the boss, who then must discuss it with her boss, who may then have to get an HR rep involved, is time consuming and unproductive.

“I’m not saying there aren’t times when it’s best to go through official channels and involve HR,” notes Studer. “Certainly, there are. Yet many times an issue with a co-worker can be solved with a face-to-face adult conversation.”

Confrontation is tough, but a necessary part of clear communication.

4.  “I’m sorry” are two of the most powerful words in the English language. At some point, you’ll make a mistake. What you do next determines your character.

“Apologizing shows one’s vulnerability, and vulnerability is a powerful trait,” says Studer. “People fear they’ll be rejected if they show weakness or admit that they failed. The opposite is true. It actually makes people like us. It shows we’re human, just like them.”