Getting along with a difficult colleague:
Oh you know them… we ALL know them…that coworker that you simply can’t STAND and have a hard time even giving a traditional hallway head nod to when you pass. The who makes you miss the days when work was just *boring*. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! We’ve all been there and even in a WONDERFUL work situation, this one coworker can create a stressful environment as you spend the whole day anticipating the inevitable toxic interaction. No matter who they are, what irksome little character flaw drives you nuts, or what sort of capacity you have to work with them, this is a legitimate problem in the workplace and it’s not just going to go away. So how to deal? What happens if there is the blow out of all blow outs? How can you do damage control and get back to “normal” with that coworker that makes you want to take pencil to your eye? Read on…
Be the Bigger Person
Yes it’s cliché but it’s an old adage for a reason. Sometimes life isn’t fair… and the people who CAN be bigger (i.e. *YOU*) are the ones that have to suck it up and do it. But here’s a tip to remember: Your coworker is probably acting a certain way out of insecurity, baggage from past experience, jealousy, ignorance or maybe they’re socially awkward. If you want to find a way to get along with them then keep that in mind. They are either frustrated with themselves or their own jobs or frustrated with you because you are the “go to” woman. Start with the assumption that if *you* had lived THEIR life, with all of their potential and experience, you would behave the SAME WAY. If you tone down your judgment, mix in a little compassion and empathy…. you will find them more palatable. And you’ll be a nicer person too!
Be cordial, courteous, and always professional and you will end up “smelling like roses”. Ahhhhh…. everybody likes roses! Know that people can TELL when you don’t like them… and NOBODY likes to be disliked!! So the nicer you are, genuinely so, the better chance you have of developing a positive rapport in the office. Chances are that if they are truly mean, others see this and experience it as well. If you can learn to deal with them with a certain calm and tolerance, then *you* can avoid paying the price of the conflict. You may be frustrated as all hell on the inside and literally want to clobber them, but save that for your venting session at home or on the phone with friends.
And you know what? Even when venting… try to think of ONE quality to appreciate in the person. Do they do their job well? Have nice style? Mean well? Are they punctual? Whatever. Every person on the planet has ONE nice quality.
What if the Unthinkable Happens?
You’re human, and beautifully flawed…. so there may come a time when the unthinkable happens and a public argument occurs. NOOOOOO!!!!! Not cool man. But it happens. Especially when you haven’t slept enough, are on a deadline, or your blood sugar is low. This can be embarrassing and certainly not look good on you! No one will care what the fight was about… they’ll just remember you losing your cucumber cool.
It’s then time to go into DDC…. that’s right DEDICATED DAMAGE CONTROL.
It might be as simple as an apology. They can go a long way, even if you honestly don’t think that it’s justified. Focus on the goal… PEACE… and don’t worry about the validity of your argument.
However, if they are truly out of line and causing disruption to your ability to do your work, then it’s time to go above their head. Make sure when you discuss with management what is going on and how this individual is causing you to have problems in your daily work life, you don’t whine or cast blame. Comment on the person’s work BEHAVIOUR, not the person. Treat it like a practical, solvable problem. They will get the hint, and you will look like the pro you are!!
Finally…. never fight back in an email! Those useful things are great when working… but can come back to haunt you if written emotionally. If you are upset… make sure you TALK to someone. Don’t TYPE!
If despite your best efforts, they get personal with YOU and attack your character, then try to calmly approach them one-on-one and have a chat. Ask them why they thought it was appropriate to get personal in the workplace.
If all else fails call in a third party such as HR that can stay neutral and help to put a fix in place that you can all live with.
Day to day, sometimes you have to put on your happy face 🙂 and deal. That’s life. But if people get out of line and you need to take things to a higher level then keep a smile on your face, maintain a professional attitude, and always try to focus on a solution, not the problem. You won’t have to deal with them forever, but your reputation will be yours forever so be the BIGGER PERSON and you will win every time!
Co-written by Jackie English
Have you worked with a colleague from hell?