Are You Unintentionally Unapproachable?
We’ve all heard about office etiquette—being polite and respectful at work. Those things are clearly important, but are they enough? In my experience, in order to work successfully with others, it’s not enough to be courteous; you must be approachable as well.
Most of us probably have some experience working with unapproachable people, and it isn’t always easy. Although they may be officially courteous, they have a way of making you feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or even intimidated. They make you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, creating a dynamic that makes office life more difficult for everyone. Being unapproachable also makes coworkers less likely to ask questions, which can adversely affect productivity.
Could you be giving off an air of unapproachability without meaning to? Is it possible that you exhibit some unapproachable behaviors that are so subtle you’re not even aware of them? Think about whether you have any of the following habits that could give your coworkers the impression that you are unapproachable.
Do you create a virtual fortress around yourself and your workspace? Do you make your colleagues feel as if you’re being disturbed or there’s never a good time to interact with you? For example, when working at your desk, perhaps you wear a permanent scowl on your face and don’t realize it. Maybe when someone approaches you with a question, your first response is no response, continuing to work as if they’re not even there. These are all ways of creating an invisible barrier that makes you seem unapproachable.
When walking down the hallway, do you employ little tricks to make it all but impossible for your coworkers to trap you into an unwanted conversation? For example, do you always happen to be “on a phone call” when walking down the hall? Are you a seasoned veteran at answering a question with one word without ever breaking your stride? Perhaps you make it a point to look like you’re hurrying to an important meeting, even if you’re going to the office fridge. Or maybe you simply look down or avoid eye contact, making it difficult for anyone to get your attention. If you have mastered the art of these tricks, you might be perceived as unapproachable.
Another red flag is the curt response. When someone asks you a question, do you answer as abruptly as possible? When answering your colleagues’ emails and IMs, are your responses terse or delayed, giving the impression that you’re being bothered? Responding curtly, rather than engaging in enthusiastic conversation, can make you appear unapproachable as well.
Turn It Around
If you find that you’re less approachable than you thought, you can turn it around. Just be more aware of your habits, making a conscious effort to become more open. Being a more approachable employee can improve life at work for you—and for everyone around you, too!