10 Ways to Become a Better Coworker in the New Year

Become a Better CoworkerTurning the New Year is my favorite time of year for two reasons.

One is that New Year’s Day is my birthday and when I was a kid, my parents told me that the ball dropping and all of the parties happening around the world were to celebrate me. Well, that delusion didn’t last long because the reality is, the celebration is New Year’s Eve – NOT New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Day, everyone is on the couch with a hangover; nobody wants cake or any food. Three days after my 4 siblings come out of their food coma, they remember it WAS my birthday. Lol.

However, the real reason I love the New Year holiday is because no matter what happened the year before, we get a “do-over.” If we didn’t reach our weight loss (most common New Year’s resolution) or financial goals, write that article/book, get certified, or _____, we get to try again.

We need a “do-over” this year to finally put an end to workplace bullying and incivility.

As I continue to help healthcare organizations cultivate a professional and respectful work environment by eradicating bullying and incivility, no matter what strategies or initiatives we roll out, it all comes down to how each of us, leader or employee, show up every day.

When you think about it, our work cultures are a result of each one of us. Yet, I find so many people complaining about how bad their workplace is…how negative… how poor morale is… how mean people are to each other. Yet, they often forget to look in the mirror to see the role they play in creating that culture.

If what I said is true, let this New Year be THE year that we each take responsibility for the part we play in creating our workplace cultures. It starts with YOU becoming a better coworker.


Here are 10 ways to BECOME a better Coworker in the New Year

1. Become an Up-stander – not a Bystander

The number one most powerful intervention to stop the cycle of bullying is for the WITNESS to speak up. However, so often, we witness cruelty yet we stand by and do nothing. Or worse, we walk away.

This year, make the commitment to speak up any time you witness cruelty towards a coworker. If you don’t know what to say, it can be as simple as, “Stop. It’s not okay the way you’re treating ________.”

2. Become Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

We avoid speaking up, confronting others or giving constructive feedback because it’s so so so uncomfortable! When we ignore and avoid interpersonal conflicts, it creates a breeding ground for bullying and incivility.

Get used to giving and receiving negative feedback as part of your professional responsibility.

It’s okay to feel uncomfortable – speak up anyway.

It’s okay to feel defensive when someone gives you feedback – accept it anyway.

3. Become a Positive Deviant

Unfortunately, there are so many negative deviants in the world right now; the gossipers, complainers, Negative Nancy’s, Debbie Downers, etc. To counter this negativity, become a POSITIVE deviant by engaging in deliberate positive conversations.

  • Make a point every day to compliment your coworkers to their face AND behind their back.
  • Shut down complaining by sharing good things happening in your department.
  • Go out of your way to spread positive news.
4. Become a Kinder Human Being

It feels like the world is getting crueler and crueler. Healthcare organizations are not immune even though they are in the “caring” business.  Bullying, incivility, and workplace violence are on the rise. Therefore, we each need to tip the balance by being deliberately kinder towards each other. Please.

Do something everyday to show kindness to a coworker, especially the cranky ones who need it most!

Click Here to learn a few ways to extend kindness to your coworkers.

5. Become More Supportive – Less Critical

Human brains are programmed to look for the negative because anything negative could be a threat to our survival.

Think about the people who work in healthcare…

We are always assessing for anything abnormal so that we can intervene and save someone’s life. It takes less energy for us to identify what’s wrong, to criticize, than to praise and support.

Starting this year, make a point to spend more of your energy looking for ways to support and praise your coworkers instead of looking for things they did wrong.

6. Become Funnier

Healthcare is one of the most stressful industries in the world.

Think about it; life and death situations happen every day without warning. The unpredictability of our work can lead to stress and burnout. Yet, we do a lousy job teaching healthcare employees good coping mechanisms.

Did you know that laughter is THE BEST way to decrease stress?

Find ways to inject humor (appropriate humor) and reasons to laugh into your workplace.

7. Become More Tolerant and Understanding of Others

It’s so easy to get offended by what people say or write (especially on social media).

This year, make an effort to lighten up a bit. Refuse to allow yourself to get offended by others or get sucked into the vortex of critical gossip and complaining about others. Instead seek to understand other’s points of view, opinions, or… just ignore them. Seriously. Let it go.

8. Become a Better Role Model

Especially if you’ve been a nurse for a long time, think about the legacy you want to leave when you’re no longer practicing.

Be that nurse now.

Show up every day ready for practice and ready to do everything in your power to emulate professionalism, collaborative communication, and what team cohesion really looks like.

As they say, “Be the type of nurse you want to work with.” Don’t wait – start now.

9. Become Better at Handling Stress

If you don’t deal with your stress, you’re more likely to lash out at your coworkers and feel unsatisfied with your job.  We’ve all read, or at least heard, about the numerous negative effects stress has on our bodies, our brains, and our happiness. Likewise, we have scientific evidence to support stress reduction activities that counter these effects.

Yet, many nurses “don’t have time” to adopt them. It’s just like saying that you don’t have time to stop for gas because you are too busy driving!!! This year, make a point to adopt just one or two stress reduction activities.

Don’t ignore stress – do something about it now.

Click here to read my top ten stress relievers.

10. Become Someone with High Emotional Intelligence

Having high Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a game changer. When I talk with groups of nurses about their workforce culture, I can immediately tell if EQ is lacking. When people make assumptions about others, when they complain about their shift doing more work than the other shift, or when nurses say, “Well that’s just my personality” – EQ is missing.

This year, the greatest gift that creates the biggest do-over is to give yourself the gift of EQ. Improving EQ is so important that we (The Healthy Workforce Institute) are adding EQ to our list of speaking topics, videos, articles, and resources – because it’s that important.


The New Year is here and before you know it, it will be a New Year again (God willing). Let this year be the year we, nurses, finally take full responsibility for our workplaces by making sure WE EACH show up every day with kindness, tolerance, positivity, and by being the quintessential role model for professionalism.

At some point, our opportunities for a “do-over” will be no more. So, let’s make this year our year to get this right.

Happy New Year!

Want additional resources to create a healthy workforce?

Take care. Be kind. Stay connected.

Renee Thompson
About Renee Thompson

Dr. Renee Thompson is a keynote speaker, author and professional development/anti-bullying thought leader. Renee spends the majority of her time helping healthcare and academic organizations address and eliminate bullying behavior. To find out how you can bring Renee to YOUR organization or nursing event, visit www.healthyworkforceinstitute.com

There are 4 comments on this post
  • Renee Thompson
    Linda Cason
    Jan 10, 2019 Reply

    Renee, my birthday is on New Year's Day also! As a child, I always felt like my parents saved one of my Christmas gifts to give to me on my birthday. I agree that no one is feeling like participating in another celebration on New Year's Day. Usually spend the day taking down Christmas decorations and cleaning up the mess. I'm grateful for my opportunity for a 2019 "do-over".

    • Renee Thompson
      Renee Thompson
      Jan 11, 2019 Reply

      That's awesome Linda!! It is definitely understandable! Although when I was young, we would go to my Grandmother's house and she would make me my favorite cake. I miss her. But yes...I don't worry about the celebration anymore because I'm more excited about the do-over!! Happy birthday!

  • Renee Thompson
    Chad Horner
    Jan 04, 2019 Reply

    Hi Renee, I like your optimism towards beginning a New Year! I think there is a tendency to point fingers at others within the healthcare sector. This is known as "The Blame Game." However, we can be the 'change' we want to see in others by becoming a better coworker! Thanks very much for sharing this. Kind regards, Chad.

    • Renee Thompson
      Renee Thompson
      Jan 04, 2019 Reply

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Chad. Yes!! WE..can be the change. It's about shifting our focus away from others and onto ourselves. Cheers to 2019!

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