OWNER'S MANUAL

9 Marvelous Qualities of People We Genuinely Love to Work With

But first, let's go over the not-so-marvelous qualities.
From left: Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti, celebrity Chef Andrew Zimmern, founder Danny Meyer and culinary director Mark Rosati at Madison Square Park.

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People don't do anything worthwhile on their own: launch a business, run a company, or build a successful career. So we don't just want great people to work with us.

We need great people to work with us. That is the only way to achieve real and lasting success. (Plus it's a lot more fun.)

Since it's often easier, at least initially, to spot extremely negative traits, here are nine reasons no one wants to work with you--and then what you should do instead:

1. You never heard an idea you couldn't steal.

An employee, a colleague, a vendor…someone has an idea. It's a good idea. It's a great idea.

Now it's your idea.

Do it once and people narrow their eyes. Do it twice and resentment simmers. Do it three times and that's the last time anyone ever shares any ideas with you.

The people we most enjoy working with have a knack for doing the opposite. They make their ideas feel like our ideas. When that happens, we all work harder. We all work with a greater sense of purpose. We all feel a greater esprit de corps.

We all are more likely to succeed.

2. You never found credit you couldn't take.

The people we hate working with tend to be extremely political. They jockey, they maneuver, they plot, and they always try to make themselves look better in the eyes of others--especially at the expense of other people. (After all, if I look good and you look bad, I'm that much farther ahead, right?)

People we love to work with know the best glory is reflected glory. They step back from the spotlight. They let others take the credit. They let others receive the accolades.

Most of all, they delight in gaining a private sense of fulfillment from seeing others receive public recognition--because that means everyone wins.

3. You always find something to take personally.

A French dilettante once said, "I am such an egotist that if I were to write about a chair I'd find some way to write about myself."

The people we hate to work with see themselves as the center of their own universe, at the center of every story they tell--and the victim of every unfortunate or negative event.

An employee misses work because he's badly injured? Forget him--look what a mess that makes of my staffing levels! A supplier has a baby and needs to reschedule an appointment? Forget her--doesn't she know what that does to my schedule?

Whatever happens to someone else--regardless of how unfortunate or even tragic--becomes trivial; what matters most is the effect that has on me.

The only things people we love to work with take personally are the things they can do to make life better for other people--because they feel a personal obligation to improve the lives of the people around them.

4. You always find the dark cloud.

You land a major customer, but all you can think about is how hard it will be to fulfill the new orders. You hire a superstar programmer, but all you can think about is how much you have to pay her. You team up with an awesome partner, but all you can think about is the control you'll lose.

Victories, in business and life, are often few and far between. Achieving something awesome (or even just a tiny bit cool) takes time and effort, so reasons to celebrate can be rare.

The people we love to work with realize that every huge goal is accomplished one small step at a time and rightly feel every step is cause for celebration. Plus they have a knack for finding the silver lining in every dark cloud. They know there is always a silver lining--you just have to be willing to look.

And by looking, they spread a sense of optimism and enthusiasm--something that is often in short supply.

5. You never think before you speak or act.

Ever seen someone throw a chair because he thought his instructions had not been followed? I have. Ever seen someone shred an employee for a mistake it turns out that person didn't make? I have.

Ever seen someone speak or act without thinking--and forever revised your opinion of her? I have.

People we love to work with react instantly to good news. They react instantly to offer recognition, congratulations, and praise.

But they take a long time to think, reflect, and decide the best way to speak and act when problems arise or when mistakes are made. They know their words and actions will leave a lasting impact, so they do everything possible to get it right.

Even when everything around them seems to be going wrong.

6. You hate to let other people finish a sentence.

Interrupting isn't just rude. When you interrupt, what you're really saying is, "I'm not listening to you so I can understand what you are saying; I'm only listening to find a place to jump in and say what I want say."

The people we love to work with listen more than they talk. They focus on what others say. They ask questions not to seem smart but to better understand.

They make us feel wise and respected.

And we love them for it.

7. You crave constant validation.

Everyone likes praise.

But some people need praise. Some people need constant attention. They need constant validation that they are smart, capable, in charge, successful. In fact, they need to know they are smarter, more capable, and more successful than everyone else.

People we love to work with don't care about external validation. They care about feeling good about themselves. The only validation they feel truly matters is found in the mirror.

Seeking self-worth inside themselves allows them to spend all their energy encouraging, recognizing, and validating other people--which makes them awesome to work with.

And also makes them awesome friends.

8. You never heard a secret you wouldn't share.

It's hard for any of us to resist learning inside scoop. Finding out the reasons behind someone's decisions, the motivations behind someone's actions, the skinny behind someone's hidden agenda--much less whether Marcy from shipping is really dating Juan in accounting--those conversations are hard to resist.

Unfortunately, the people who gossip about other people are also gossiping about us. And suddenly gossip isn't so much fun.

People we love to work with excuse themselves from gossip and walk away. They don't worry that they'll lose a gossiper's respect--they know that anyone wiling to gossip doesn't respect other people anyway.

Instead, if they decide to share a secret, they speak openly about their own thoughts and feelings. That way they're not gossiping.

They're just being genuine--and we all love being around people who are genuine.

9. You never had a sermon you wouldn't preach.

The higher you rise, the more you accomplish, the more likely you are to think you know everything, the more likely you are to think you need to tell other people everything you think you know.

Some people speak with much more finality than foundation. Some people think a position or "status" automatically confers wisdom. And that means other people hear…but don't listen.

People we love to work with share their thoughts in a humble and unpretentious way. They care about what we know.

After all--they already know what they know.

IMAGE: Courtesy Company
Last updated: Jul 16, 2014

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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