SHOW DATE: AUGUST 7, 2013
Co-workers are like family: you can’t choose them and you can’t shoot them.
Excuse us if we’re being a bit grim here, but you know what we’re talking about: some co-workers are like that one creepy relative you can’t stand. Thankfully, you only have to see that relative once a year on Thanksgiving. But the co-worker who buzzes around making your life miserable, always getting on your nerves—yep, they’re around every day.
Here’s the cold water: you have to work it out. A bad work relationship will bleed over to other parts of your life. The same argument you have with your co-worker, you’re having with your wife, your husband, your child, your lover. And the negativity that is produced by the tension between you two casts a dark shroud over the office, which holds the company back from focusing on growth. Worker conflict equals stagnancy, for both co-workers and company.
Are you ready for some extra cold water? Close your eyes: you love it when the co-worker you hate is responsible for your misery, because you get off the hook (learn more on how to deal with scapegoating in the office). When they go crazy and start arguing with you, or when they do something that distracts you from your job, you suddenly get “permission” to turn a blind eye to that email you didn’t answer, that copy machine you didn’t fix, that client you were supposed to call back; in your mind, it’s their fault that you can’t do your job right.
That all has to end now. And the killer here is that you can’t go to your supervisor for help: it’s between the two of you, and no external party can help fix this. Here are a few steps to help you become the better co-worker and start the mending process:
1) Realize that there is a difference of personalities: Whether they’re a millennial and you’re a baby boomer, or they were raised in a completely different background, realizing that you and you co-worker have totally different personalities is the first step to getting to the heart of the problem.
2) Understand that external forces may be at play: There may be other factors at play here—forces such as stress, busyness and family conflict—that may be contributing to the tension on either side. Your co-worker has a life outside the office, and his external problems may be just as bad as yours.
3) Confront them formally: Tell your co-worker that you want to fix the situation, but do so formally. Don’t blindside them with a, “Hey, we have to talk, now.” Set up an appointment, and when you’re both comfortable, describe the issue at hand instead of freaking out and getting emotional. Instead of calling them an ass, tell them how they make you feel. And don’t make this meeting about yourself…
4) Let them speak: This is the hardest part of all. You have to let the co-worker speak. Even if all they do is dump on you, it just exacerbates the situation if you cut them off and don’t let them spill their guts. Be prepared to be dumped on during your appointment with them. Remember, you’re killing the company by not resolving this—take it for the team and listen.
5) Make a request: Make a formal request. If they’re on Twitter and Facebook all the time and it’s distracting you, make a request for them to at least curb their usage: “Can you please spend a little less time on social networking sites? It distracts me and makes it hard for me to focus on work.” Be prepared to get your request denied. If this happens, ask them, “What’s a way this can happen?” If they’re still not budging, see if you can propose another request, or offer a different solution for the same request. As long as you operate in a loving way, you can keep proposing until you work something out. Also, avoid being a hypocrite: be prepared to accept a request yourself in order to have yours fulfilled.
6) Stop trying to be right—start being powerful: You like being right. Who doesn’t? But do you care more about being right, or having a great team? You can either focus on being right and keep battling with your coworker, or work it out and focus on having a great, kick-ass business that makes a lot of money and makes a difference on the planet. A lot of the times, the conflict stems from both you and your coworker wanting to prove the other wrong. Instead, be powerful—think about the company before you think about your ego.
We get it. At the end of the day, you want to be acknowledged for what you do, you want to be loved for all the hard work you put in. Start by being nice to your coworker (read our tips on how to turn your office enemy into a frenemy). Here’s some homework: find one thing you think your co-worker does well and then compliment them for it. They’ll be stunned: after all, this attitude is not your usual modus operandi, and their perspective of you will change. Subsequently, don’t be afraid to ask your co-workers what they like about what you do. Having a functional relationship with your team is the key to your company’s success.