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Your relationship with coworkers can completely alter the course of your relationship with your job. It’s no secret that it’s more enjoyable to come into work at a place where you like the people around you. But the way you see your coworkers — and the way that they see you — hinges on small interactions that might not even be on your radar.

A recent Harvard Business Review article describes these interactions as “micromoves.” According to Kerry Roberts Gibson and Beth Schinoff, the authors, micromoves are “small actions or behaviors that seem inconsequential in the moment but affect how we relate to one another.” Particularly in the workplace, the consequences of small actions have big implications.

In a typical office setting, you’re there for forty hours (or more) each week and spend eight-plus hours in close proximity to your coworkers. For many people, that’s more time spent than with their partners or closest friends. And yet, relationships with coworkers aren’t regarded the same way that romantic relationships or friendships are. It’s easy to take for granted the presence of someone who sits at the desk across from you for over 33% of the time in your week.

Being aware of micromoves empowers you to be mindful of your interactions. That same mindfulness can make you more aware and empathetic to the actions of others and how your actions may impact them.

The Harvard Business Review article suggests five practical tips for building and maintaining the best possible relationships with these all-important folks in your life:

1. Understand your coworker’s point of view
Intention is often much different than effect when it comes to your interactions. Try imagining what was going on in your coworker’s head before jumping to the conclusion.


2. Recognize that micromoves are not always intentional
Sometimes the reason for an unexpected disagreement with a coworker is simply because of outside factors. If you really want to know what they meant by their actions, asking the question can turn things around.


3. Understand your role in the story
It’s easier to jump to conclusions about others, but try imagining any scenario from an outsider perspective.


4. Journal your micromoves
Keeping track of your interactions, from how you treat others to how you react to the way you’re treated, is a great way to stay mindful and aware.


5. Know that “good” and “bad” micromoves aren’t always created equal
It’s much easier to hurt someone than it is to garner appreciation.

It can be easier to lose track of the positive interactions you have with people and let the negative ones take focus — that’s a natural component of how humans operate. But with awareness of micromoves and an increased focus on how your actions affect others, you can use small interactions to amount to big change in the workplace. It all starts with empathy.

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