Working in a team means dealing with different personalities, divergent perspectives, and very particular work preferences. Even so, we often behave as if everyone knows how we operate and expect them to act like we think they’re supposed to.
It is too easy to assume that people will understand our way of thinking from experience without us verbalizing it. This neverending cycle of high expectations toward others usually leads to miscommunication, confusion, and disappointment.
The best way to overcome this issue is by leaving assumptions behind and creating your “How To Work With Me” guide. This document can help your team get to know you better and avoid most miscommunication-related matters.
What is a How To Work With Me manual?
Initially thought for team managers, the How To Work With Me guide is a document where you can describe your work preferences.
It is especially great for remote teams, as you can use it to communicate your work hours and time zone, whether people are allowed to contact you during your days off or not, and anything else that might make your professional relationships smoother.
In fact, certainty is always welcome. When you know how, when and what to communicate to a specific team member, collaboration becomes so much easier. That is why the How To Work With Me’s purpose is to set explicit expectations and clear any second guessing.
But this document isn’t only for managers. The more team members engage in creating their own “user guides”, the better the overall communication will be.
As precisely quoted by PatientPing’s CEO Jay Desai, the How To Work With Me manual is a “social contract” that outlines how to interact as individuals in a team. In his words, “it helps us feel ok being ourselves without being misunderstood and a powerful tool to scale fast.”
Learn More: 9 Productivity Principles For Remote Teams
The Claire Hughes Johnson Case
The most popular use case of a How To Work With Me document is Claire Hughes’ guide that she wrote when joining Stripe’s team as Chief Operating Officer. Her experience is detailed in Elad Gil’s High Growth Handbook.
In short, Hughes wrote her guide to make it easier for her new subordinates to understand how she works, thinks, and leads. She wanted people to know what to expect from her without surprises, which would avoid disappointments and any form of anxiety related to interacting with a manager.
Her initiative worked so well that soon it spread as a best practice across the company. Other managers started doing the same, and even operational-level employees jumped on the idea.
The pros of the How To Work With Me guide
Writing a How to Work With Me document might seem like an odd or arrogant move at first, but in reality, it’s quite the opposite. This manual can significantly impact how people perceive you and make the work environment easygoing. Here are some of its main benefits:
Avoid misunderstandings and awkwardness
Working with a new team or welcoming a new employee means dealing with the differences and adjusting to individual work approaches. By documenting your preferences, expectations, and communication style, you reduce the misunderstandings and the awkwardness of not knowing how to address someone or behave.
It shows openness and humility
When showcasing a guide mainly about communication, and interaction, you automatically open the door for your teammates to approach you. It demonstrates that you are putting in the effort to improve the work relationships by creating respectful boundaries and acknowledging everyone’s individuality.
It makes it easier to get to know your coworkers
When the How To Work With Me manual becomes a best practice among a team, the document makes it easier to get to know everyone and even to create deeper connections. It can become a great tool, especially for remote teams, which usually have fewer opportunities to observe and learn how each member functions.
It saves everyone’s time
Besides reducing friction and avoiding uncomfortable surprises among the team, writing a personal guide can save you and everyone else’s time. You won’t have to explain your words and actions over and over, nor you’ll have to ask for so many explanations.
This document is about keeping preferences and intentions clear and objective so the whole team can check it whenever they are in doubt about how to work with you.
How to write a user guide
The goal of a How To Work With Me manual isn’t to limit your coworkers with strict rules about how to interact with you. Instead, it must show them some best practices to make the most out of your abilities and develop an amicable relationship with you.
Before you start writing your document, reflect on the following:
1. What are your work preferences?
Knowing beforehand how you actually like to work will make writing the guide much easier. Think about what motivates you versus what you find irritating, which tools you prefer and how to use them, your best hours to focus, etc.
The more you understand your work style down to the very specific things, the clearer your manual will be. A few things to consider:
- What should be sent via message, and what should become an email?
- Do you mind if people send you voice messages?
- Can Loom videos substitute online meetings?
- How do you like to receive and give feedback?
- How would you want people to behave when you are on time off?
2. Why do you like this work style?
Creating several rules about how to interact with you without explaining why increases the chances that nobody will follow them.
Take a minute to consider why your way of working is the best for your context. Maybe it’s related to your job position, personality, culture, or even personal habits.
Explaining your perspective to your teammates will help them know you well enough to make the right decisions about things you may not have addressed in your guide.
The Remote Company CEO’s guide excerpt is a great example: “I like to see things visually. If you want to convince me about something, show visual examples from competitors or other successful companies. I value arguments that are based on research and market review (and presented visually).”
3. Acknowledge other equally effective work approaches
There is no universal truth when it comes to work styles. So, in addition to explaining your vision for work, it is valuable to show you are aware that other people’s approaches and preferences work equally well.
For example, while you may like to build deeper connections with your coworkers with quick chit-chats whenever possible, others might prefer to stay at a distance and not mix their personal and professional lives. All differences are valid and must be respected!
Keep reading: Time Blocking For Teams Productivity
How To Work With Me: A Template
After considering the points above, it’s time to get to the action and write your own guide. While you must be careful not to impose your work style on anyone, there is no right or wrong regarding this personal document.
Here is a simple template to get you started:
1. A fun thing about me
This is a casual and fun way to introduce yourself. You can share a brief interesting fact or experience you’ve been through to set a friendly tone for your whole document.
Work-related facts or stories would be best!
2. What motivates me
This section is where you’ll talk about how to work with you. Some questions you may want to answer here are:
- What exactly do you work with, and what do you love most about it?
- What are your strengths as a professional? How you’d like to use that to contribute to the team?
- What is your thinking process? How do you approach your goals/tasks?
- What do you think is essential for you to perform your best?
- How do you work on group projects? What do you expect from other members?
- How can people help you do your work?
3. What exhausts me
In the opposite to the previous section, here you’ll describe how to not work with you. A few questions that can help you explain that:
- What frustrates or annoys you?
- What are your weaknesses and blind spots as a professional?
- What situations would you like to avoid? You can provide some specific examples here.
- Do you mind having your schedule full of long meetings?
- Do you require some “no notification” time to focus on your work?
- What tasks and projects do you want to be involved in?
- If you are a manager, when should your subordinates ask for confirmation?
4. Communication preferences
In this topic, you’ll discuss any and all communication particularities you’d like. Outline your chosen communication channel and style briefly, and explain your working hours and schedule.
- What are your working hours and your time zone? Can people message you when you’re off?
- What communication channels do you use? How and when should people use them to contact you?
- Are you available via personal phone number or messager?
- Do you like to small talk and chat? Or should people keep the conversation strictly to the point?
- Do you like GIFs, stickers, and emojis? Or do you feel like they can make the conversation confusing?
5. How I prefer to give and receive feedback
Giving and receiving feedback is essential for individual and team growth, but each person has a different approach to it. Use this area to disclaim what is your feedback style.
- Do you prefer feedback after each task is completed? Or a more comprehensive feedback every once in a while?
- How do you approach positive and negative feedback?
- How would you like to receive positive and negative feedback?
- Do you mind if your feedback is given in front of other people? Or do you prefer it to be private?
- How do you follow up on feedback? How do you check if improvements were made?
6. Important things to know about me
This is the space to talk about everything you haven’t before, but you feel that must be addressed. You can discuss possible misunderstandings, particular behavior you might have, and what they mean, and even disclaim that you don’t want to be called by a certain nickname.
Here you can reveal your eccentricities and help people build a much smoother work relationship with you.
In the startup and corporate environments, we are always looking for the best time-saving and productivity strategies, whether our team is remote or on-site.
When given some thought, the How To Work With Me manual can become an excellent tool for saving the time you would spend explaining yourself and for building healthier relationships with your team. It can be even better with this document becomes a best practice for the whole team.
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