5 Traits That Will Make People Want To Work With You


Work in a big company and people have no choice but to work with you. They’ll enjoy it or they won’t.

As a freelancer or a startup, clients vote with their feet. They come back for more, or they look elsewhere.

Get a good reputation, and you can anticipate repeating business, deepening relationships, and word of mouth growth. Get a bad reputation — watch out.

I’ve worked both sides of the fence — corporate and startup. From my experience, these are the key traits to display:

Show Positivity

Every Zoom meeting or phone call starts with a couple of minutes of warm-up. Everyone asks how everyone else is. Have a positive answer ready.

It is not your chance to moan about your cat being sick or the kids annoying you or how business isn’t good at the moment.

Even better, follow the screenwriter’s rule of “show, don’t tell.” Use your conversational warm-up to demonstrate what you are about.

A young man works outdoors with his phone and laptop
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My company does creative consultancy, podcasting, and tech innovation. I want people to think I’m optimistic about new ways of doing things.

I had a meeting with a lawyer. Her conversational question was about how I’d experienced work during the pandemic. I could have mentioned the stress of home-schooling or the people close to me who have lost jobs.

Instead, I talked about how I’ve found unexpected benefits in the necessity of breaking my work into chunks. I’ve discovered that I write, create, and analyze well in the morning. Admin tasks suit me late at night.

I saw a look of interest and surprise on her face.

She hadn’t thought about how working at different times could be helpful. In answering her warm-up question, I’d shown that I can innovate and look on the bright side.

Every interaction you have with a colleague, client, or collaborator leaves an impression.

You have no idea when you might come up in other people’s conversations, plans, or thoughts. Consciously or subconsciously, people want to work with those that display positivity.

Be positive — show it, don’t just say it — and people will want to work with you.

A woman sends a message on her phone
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Respond Quickly

The unanswered email is one of the great sins of working relationships. Entire projects stall or go sour because a key person at a key time didn’t respond.

Don’t be that person.

I learned this lesson the hard way early in my career as a national broadcaster. I got the chance to work on a project interviewing famous artists from major labels about upcoming albums.

I was young at the time, and it was a huge step up for me. A senior manager emailed me asking me how I wanted the project to work.

I had no idea. I didn’t even know where to start.

So, I began to ask others who had worked on similar things to get their thoughts.

All the time in my head, I was composing the perfect email with a detailed plan. Days went by. I was building a good strategy and was excited about the opportunity.

The senior manager called me into her office. She was angry. Did I realize how important this project was? Why wasn’t I making any effort?

And here was the killer question:

Why had I never got back to her email?

A video game screen displaying GAME OVER
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So stupid. In my excitement and nervousness and eagerness to impress, I’d fallen at the first hurdle.

I apologized and explained. The atmosphere changed. We discussed my plan so far, and everything was fine.

I walked out of that office with my lesson learned. Ever since, every email I get, I respond to as quickly as possible, even if it is just a few words.

If you don’t reply or you are late to respond, you are losing control of the other person’s perception of you.

At best, you look disorganized. At worst, you look like you don’t care.

It is far better to send a response quickly, even if it is to say you don’t know the answer or you will need to respond in full at a later time.

People want to work with people who respond.

A young woman holds a water melon slice in front of her face — it looks like a big smile
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At Least Pretend To Enjoy Yourself

We all want to be enjoying our jobs. Tom Petty summed it up best:

“Do something you really like, and hopefully it pays the rent. As far as I’m concerned, that’s success.” — Tom Petty

All jobs — even rock star — involve stuff you don’t enjoy, but you need to do. If you’re a freelancer or startup, those jobs could be some of your best earners.

Try to find something to like in every job, or at least give the impression. The person engaging with you on this task is likely to be passionate about it.

You have no idea how the power dynamics in your company or industry are going to change in the future.

When I first worked on the radio, what came out of the speakers was everything. There were millions of listeners rapt and undistracted.

I saw many on-air presenters and producers roll their eyes at “doing something for online” or “taking part in this thing for the social media teams.”

I had to laugh when I saw in LinkedIn the other day that one ex-colleague (who used to have to badger my colleagues for social media content) had just won an Emmy.

A camera is set up to film a glamorous stage
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They’d left the corporation, started their own company with another colleague (it got bought out for millions), and is now right at the top of their industry.

Meanwhile, the same radio presenters and producers who used to moan about doing “stuff for online” are now wondering where all their traditional radio listeners have gone.

Now, they would love their Emmy-winning ex-colleague to take an interest in their work.

Do every and any task with as much of a smile as you can muster.

Respect the jobs that others have chosen to do, and they will want to work with you in the future.

Be Clear About Money

Oh, the merry dance we all do, having great fun with “ideas sessions” or “grabbing a coffee” when all anyone wants to know is:

How much money are we talking about?

I’ve worked in the media and creative industries all my career, and there’s a real issue with people not wanting to put a number on anything.

  • How much does it cost to do this?

It depends.

  • What budget have you got?

Not sure.

The clearer you can be about money, the more people will want to work with you. It’s that simple.

A couple in the middle of a ballroom dance
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Dancing around the issue wastes time. If you’re providing a service, make your rate clear. If you’ve got funds to spend on a project, say what the budget is.

People like to know where they stand. No-one should work for free.

This point stands on both sides of the supplier/commissioner relationship. Get a reputation for not paying a fair rate? Fewer people will pitch to you. Overcharge for your services? Companies will go elsewhere.

And if you refuse to even engage with the money question? Then you’re wasting everyone’s time.

Be clear about money, and you will be in demand.

Be Loyal

Loyalty is a hard attribute to pin down. Unfortunately, it can mean ignoring bad practices in an attempt to stay in the good books of influential people.

What I mean by loyalty is staying true to the reasons, context, and goals that began your working relationship.

It means, simply, not being a d**k.

It also means playing fair.

I used to work with someone who loved to know everyone else’s business. Whether it was little chats here, going for lunch there, or doing some social media digging — they knew all the gossip in the industry.

I remember them bragging to me that they knew one of our employees was looking for other work because a manager from that other organization had tipped them off.

It all seems OK if your goals happen to intersect with theirs. But what if they don’t?

Two people are clearly gossiping
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I engage very warily with that person now because I have a genuine concern that any information I give could be horse-traded by them to others. I have no faith in their loyalty.

Don’t gossip, respect confidentiality, and be civil.

If you agreed to work on a project for a small company, and then a better offer from a larger company comes along, don’t make up an excuse to back out of the original deal.

If you use a supplier, and they serve you well, and another supplier comes along and can undercut, consider sticking with your original supplier.

Put yourselves in their shoes. Treat others as you wish to be treated.

Act with principles and loyalty, and people will want to work with you.

Closing Thoughts

It is a tough time for the world’s economy. Budgets are tightening, and opportunities are scarce. Competition is fierce.

What makes someone want to work with another person? All things being equal with the standard of work, it’s these traits:

Positivity — show it in how you are, not just what you say.

Respond quickly — don’t lose control of people’s perception of you.

Work with a smile — it may be boring to you, but it’s someone else’s passion.

Clarity about money — don’t give people false hope or expect free work.

Loyalty — be fair, don’t gossip, and treat others with respect.

Display all these traits, and people will be queuing up to work with you.

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