This week saw the release of the OECD’s globally relevant ‘Better Life Index’, which ranks international countries according to 11 criteria sets that are reportedly crucial to a happy life. Including data concerning health, education, income and environment, it also asks respondents to evaluate their priorities in life and analyzes their overall “sense of happiness”.

Many of the criteria revolve around the world of work, especially when you consider annual income levels and the environment that we are exposed to every day. A productive and contented work life is crucial if you are to maintain a genuine sense of happiness, as without this you may find it difficult to remain positive or maintain a strong sense of self.

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So what exactly makes us happy in the workplace? In truth there are multiple factors that impact on a contented working life, but gaining respect from our colleagues is arguably the single most important. This forms the foundation for daily working relationships and long-term progression within a particular industry, so consider the following steps towards achieving this:

1. Demonstrate your worth and value as an employee.

The process of gaining respect from both colleagues and superiors begins from the moment you first enter the workplace, and you must immediately demonstrate an understanding of your worth and unique value as an employee. This must not only be reflected in the salary that you demand from your managers, but also in the way that you undertake your role and add value to the business through the completion of individual tasks that fall within your job description.

2. Interact with your colleagues and care about their lives.

Even with the best of intentions, our lives can sometimes take an unwanted or potentially disruptive turn. This can make it difficult to attend work with a smile and a proactive attitude, but this is crucial if you want to retain the respect of those around you. By continuing to interact with your colleagues and taking a genuine interest in their lives–even during times of hardship–you are displaying an eminently human quality that commands the good will of others.

3. Speak calmly and listen to others.

Respect must always be a mutual concept, as you cannot hope to gain it without offering it in the first instance. It is therefore crucial that you remain a good listener at all times, and take the opinions of others on board before taking a direct action or decision. On a similar note, you must always speak calmly when interacting with both colleagues and superiors, as otherwise you run the risk of alienating them and developing a reputation as someone who is difficult to work with.

4. Always smile during times of triumph.

While the world of work can be challenging, this should not detract from those occasions where you achieve a goal or successfully complete a project. It is important to celebrate these moments, both as an individual and as part of a larger team. A warm and positive smile serves to underline a job well done. This will help to foster greater levels of morale over time, while it will also cement your position as a popular and well-respected employee.

5. Deal with adversity in a similar manner.

Just as professional sportsmen are tested more in defeat than they are in victory, so too the average employee must dig deeper during adversity than in times of prosperity. You must treat both of these entities with a positive and proactive attitude, and maintain your smile even during challenging and difficult times. Your ability to maintain a focused and level head will only boost the esteem in which you are held; this is also a key attribute to have in the business world.

6. Go above and beyond the call of duty.

Whenever you start a job, you are given a basic salary and a job description that outlines the tasks under your control. As you develop relationships with those around you and earn greater levels of responsibility, however, you must be willing to operate outside of these boundaries and do more than is expected of you. Whether this is covering for an unforeseen absence or completing a project within a specified deadline, your willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty will ensure that you remain well-respected among your peers.

7. Make collaboration a key aspect of your work life.

On a similar note, there may also be instances where it is necessary to work on a collaborative project with different colleagues and departments. This can be challenging, especially if you are unfamiliar with their working methods or prefer to operate on an independent basis. Earning universal respect requires you to communicate with people across multiple levels, regardless of status or pre-existing relationship. With this in mind, you must always be open to collaboration and strive to work effectively with any kind of team.

8. Establish boundaries and understand your limits.

Achieving respect in the workplace is a delicate balancing act, as while you must be willing to take on additional work and collaborate, it is also important that you prioritize your own professional goals. You must strive to understand your limits and establish boundaries as an employee, as this ensures that your position is never compromised by taking on too heavy a workload. If you fail to do this, you will quickly find yourself overwhelmed and at the mercy of more selfish and manipulative colleagues.

9. Practice the virtue of patience.

Professional respect relies on your ability to showcase both compassion and understanding, as you must make the most of your colleagues’ strengths while also making allowances for their weaknesses. Everyone brings a unique skill-set to the workplace, while each individual also works at his or her own pace. It is crucial that you are patient when dealing with colleagues and superiors, as this enables you to become a productive and respected member of a multi-layered organization.

10. Avoid the perils of office gossip.

While office gossip can occasionally be fun and even insightful, it must be avoided at all costs if you are to be respected as a trustworthy and conscientious employee. Not only does a willingness to engage in gossip suggest that you are incapable of discreetly managing potentially sensitive information, but it also creates the impression of someone who has a less than dedicated approach to their work. Neither of these attributes are likely to inspire respect within the workplace, especially if you are based in a relatively small office where behavior can be easily analyzed.

11. Deal with conflict in a proactive and mature manner.

Rather like gossip, conflict is an inevitable and yet unpleasant aspect of any busy workplace. While the former can be avoided, the latter cannot and it is how you handle professional conflict that determines whether or not you are likely to earn the respect of your colleagues. By adopting a proactive approach and confronting such conflict in a mature manner, for example, you can achieve an amicable resolution and easily earn the respect of those around you. This is crucial; it can also help to strengthen professional relationships over time.

12. Become a problem solver.

As I touched on earlier, professional respect can also be achieved simply by adding unique value to the workplace. While you can do this by undertaking your role tenaciously and effectively, it is also possible to become a talented problem solver with skills in analytical thinking, strategizing, and negotiation. Every workplace needs a proactive problem solver, so by taking on the mantle and fulfilling this need you can gain newfound respect among your colleagues.

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