Four Simple Steps to Ensure You’re a Pleasure to Work With

Here are a few examples of how, with almost no effort on your part, you can make many situations easier for your colleagues–and earn a reputation as a diligent and thoughtful professional.

“Please call me back as soon as you can. My number is 703–8<garble>7–6<static><garble>4. This is urgent.”

A voicemail like that is one reason you should always state your phone number twice when you leave a message.

Don’t you get frustrated when someone you work with fails to do something that would’ve taken them just a second or two but that creates significant work and anxiety for you?

People rarely think about a situation from anyone’s point of view but their own, so we often neglect to make that little extra effort that could really help the people around us. That’s why you see signs at airport security lines reminding you to have your ID and boarding pass ready – so when it’s your turn, everyone else in line doesn’t have to wait while you hunt in your bag for those things.

Here are four examples of how, with almost no effort on your part, you can make many situations easier for your colleagues – and earn a reputation as a diligent and thoughtful professional.

1. Give actionable information in your Out of Office email message.

You’ve probably received auto-response email messages that read something like, “I will be out of the office until Friday and will not be checking voicemail or email.”

Translation: “Sorry. You’re <garble> out of luck.”

When you’re drafting your auto-response message, try to think from your email senders’ points of view. Who might be emailing you while you’re gone? What might they need? Who else might be able to help them?

Put those notes into your message:

If this is regarding the Budget Review project, you can find the latest documentation on our intranet, under the Budget folder (available at http://….).

If you have a question regarding the status update I sent out last Thursday, please contact my colleague Tanya at 202-… or tanya@….

2. When leaving a voicemail, state your phone number twice.

The most thoughtful way to do this is to state that you’re about to do it beforehand – “Let me give you my phone number, and I’ll repeat it….” That way, as you’re stating it the first time, the listener knows they have a few seconds to grab a pen and paper to catch it the second time – and they won’t have to stop and replay your message.

This is particularly important when you leave a message from your cell phone. You can’t know if and when your cell will cut out or when background noise on your end will drown out your voice. So repeating an important piece of information like your phone number is a key courtesy.

3. Include your email signature each time, even if you’re replying to an email.

The idea here is that anytime your email recipient reads your message, they have your phone numbers right there – so they won’t have to hunt for them if they want to call you.

For long back-and-forth email threads, you might want to create a shorter signature – listing only your office and cell numbers. If you’re trading emails with co-workers, they don’t need to see your agency’s full name, your title and your “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” quote from Einstein.

But they might want to call you while they’re reading your email. So this is a thoughtful way to give them that information. As with the other ideas here, this takes you just a second – to insert the appropriate email signature – but it shows your recipients you’re thinking of ways to make things easier for them.

4. Name your files appropriately.

Few things are more frustrating than sifting through documents you’ve received, looking for the latest list of action items for the Employee Benefits Task Force, and trying to remember if it’s the file called, “File” or “log” or “Task force stuff.”

You will be doing a real service for your colleagues if you take just a few seconds to think through how you name your files. In the above example, you might name it “Employee_Benefits_Task_Force_action_list_June_16_2010.”

Another option is to use a version number on each new file – for example: “Employee_Benefits_Task_Force_action_list_v3.”

Note: It’s a good idea to use underscore marks rather than spaces, because not all email programs read spaces properly, which can create problems opening the files.

This makes the file name much easier to update for anyone who works on it. And when your colleagues receive your files, they’ll know you took the time to name it in a way that would make it easier for them to understand. Like the other suggestions here, over time this will ensure your colleagues think of you as a true pleasure to work with.

Once you get into the habit of doing these things, you’ll find many other small steps you can take to make life easier for your colleagues. The return on investment for these habits is enormous – an enhanced reputation for just a few seconds of extra effort.

How about you? Can you think of similar ideas?

About the Author

Robbie Hyman is a professional communications and public affairs writer. He has 15 years’ experience writing for nonprofits, small business and multibillion-dollar international organizations and is available as a freelance writer for federal agencies.

Robbie has written thousands of pages of content, including white papers, speeches, published articles, reports, manuals, newsletters, video scripts, advertisements, technical document and other materials. He is also co-founder of, an online course that teaches smart money habits to teenagers.