Is Your Office 'The Office'? 13 Tips for Workplace Harmony

How to avoid being your office’s Michael Scott.

Summer is here, which means students graduated, new faces are starting to pop up at work and advice columns for the newbies are pouring in.

I thought I’d write my own advice column, but with a twist. In addition to providing eight tips for recent grads, I threw in five for bosses on handling new hires.

Here’s my advice on navigating Dunder Mifflin. I think Michael Scott would be proud.

Eight tips for recent grads:

1. Be a team player. You are like the freshman who just walked onto a high school varsity team. Know your role — start by observing and warming the bench. Learn the company’s system quickly and you’ll get some playing time.

2. Wear a smile every day. People like to interact with fun and positive co-workers. It’s amazing how far this goes.

3. Avoid dating in the office. Make sure it’s at least on a different floor or division (note: same applies to mid-career divorcées).

4. E-mail the right way. Capitalize, answer within 24 hours, be crisp and present your information clearly. Use an e-mail signature so it’s easy to find your phone number.

5. Step away from the keyboard. Sometimes it’s better to use the phone or stop by in person. This can be painful, I know.

6. Don’t be overzealous. Remember that kid in class who raised his hand 90 times a day (who everyone hated)? The same is true at work — share your ideas when you have a real winner.

7. Dress like your boss. Unless your boss is the worst dressed in the office.

8. Connect with others. Bring in a candy dish, organize the intramural team or set up the office happy hour. You’ll get to know a ton of people while figuring out how you fit in.
New hires aren’t the only ones who make mistakes; employers often stumble when dealing with the new Generation Y work force. 

Five tips for dealing with recent grads:

1. Mentor, don’t parent. Don’t compare your kid’s age to the younger employee — he’s not your son, and you aren’t his dad. This is a work relationship.

2. Provide the tools. You wouldn’t want a surgeon using outdated equipment, so give your new employees modern technologies.

3. Coach your team. Train your players to be great; care and look out for your team.

4. Give variety. New hires are looking for variety to find the right fit of work. While ensuring they focus on their major tasks, give them various assignments and expose them to different activities within the organization.

5. Trust them. Don’t treat new hires like interns. You spent time and money hiring new employees; give them a shot at real work.

It’s a two-way street — new hires have a responsibility to adapt and learn the skills to succeed, and the organization and supervisors are in charge of giving them the training, respect and freedom to achieve those goals.

In the end, both sides want the same outcome — a fun, effective work environment that tackles important problems each day and delivers an effective and efficient government to citizens.

Steve Ressler is the founder and president of GovLoop, a social networking site for government officials to connect and exchange information.