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Which Coworker Is Your Ideal Office Neighbor?

The people we work with have a big impact on our days. Research has shown that a bad manager is the No. 1 reason people leave their jobs and also that difficulties with the boss can do real damage, and can even make you sick. Well, it turns out that our coworkers can also have a pretty big impact on our mood, our performance, our creativity, and even our overall job satisfaction.
coworker neighbor
Image Credit: karl.bedingfield/Flickr

New research conducted by Harvard Business School and Cornerstone OnDemand, which was reported by Fast Company, indicates that having your desk next to someone who works in a complimentary way could have a big impact on energy levels and efficiency around the workplace. So, what kind of coworker might be the best fit for you, and which should you avoid? Check out the list below to decide for yourself.

  1. The negative coworker.

It’s unlikely that anyone would willingly elect to spend a lot of time with a negative coworker; they complain, project a bad attitude, and generally bring down the mood and energy levels of those around them. But, it’s important to mention them here if only to remind us not to become them. No one wants to spend a lot of time around someone who is consistently negative. Even if that someone is you.

  1. The producer.

Fast Company reports that sitting next to someone who is more productive, or someone who produces more high-quality work, will drive up your work performance. It stands to reason that working in the shadow of a more efficient coworker, or someone who manages to conjure up higher quality work in less time, will bring out the best in us. In some ways, it might be learning from what they do, but this boost to performance might also be the result of a bit of internal, subconscious peer-pressure that makes us want to measure up in others’ eyes.

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  1. The struggler.

If you happen to find yourself on the reverse side of the above scenario (that is, you’re sitting next to someone who is generally less productive and/or produces less high quality work than you do) don’t fear. It turns out that this shouldn’t have a big impact on your performance after all.

“If you sit a strong and a weak performer next to each other, the weaker employee performs much better, and the stronger employee’s performance doesn’t decline much at all,” Michael Housman, one of the authors of the study told Fast Company. “If you are a strong performer, you shouldn’t avoid those that aren’t as good as you. It’s not a zero sum game. The performance of both employees can be better when you put them together than if they were left alone.”

  1. Your buddy.

Having friends at work is a great thing, in many ways, but is it best to sit right next to each other every day? That probably depends on the people. Sure, sitting next to your bestie will certainly make the day more enjoyable, and it will probably help the hours go by a little faster too, but will it make you more productive or less? If you can avoid the temptation to distract each other, the mood boost could go a long way toward supporting better creativity and even productivity. So, if you are disciplined enough, sitting next to a good friend could be a great thing for both of you. But, if you lack that degree of self-control, it might be best not to chance it.

There are many different kinds of people out there, and many potential kinds of office-mate relationships. When making decisions about where to sit (if it’s your choice in the first place – you might consider advocating for yourself if it isn’t) be sure to be mindful of how each coworker impacts your mood, creativity, and productivity. Think about the role you play for them as well. It could make a pretty big difference on your work-life on a day-to-day basis.

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How does the person sitting next to you impact your work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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