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Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Generation J Toolbox

Keeping your cool with co-workers

By Mike Brannen

Sometimes it's obvious why you and a co-worker don’t get along. But what do you do when you and a co-worker have a chilly relationship, and you don’t know why? It’s not always clear what started it. Here are some things to consider if you want to improve a relationship with a difficult co-worker.

PATIENCE

Be patient with them. Demonstrate patience as much as you can. Your ability to handle whatever lumps a co-worker throws at you speaks volumes about your professionalism. Patience isn’t passive-aggressiveness. You only act passive-aggressively by putting up with things, complaining about it and not finding a solution to a problem. If there is a perpetual issue, don’t hold it in and then blow up over it. Calmly address it head on.

KEEP YOUR COOL

A smart-aleck response never helps. You only dig the relationship into a deeper hole. Whenever you want to say something harsh, just shut it. Keep it in your head, and you prevent the relationship from taking an ugly turn. You might make the one wrong comment that’s over the line, and you are the one facing big trouble. If you have to physically take a deep breath, or count to five, do it.

I know hurtful comments can happen on deadline when there’s no time to play nice. Say what you need to say to get the job done, but make sure you do it respectfully. If it is so bad it requires a conversation with a manager, good luck. You don’t want to get caught in a “he said, she said,” because you will never win.

SEE THE PROBLEM FROM THEIR POINT OF VIEW

You can’t change everything about a co-worker. He or she may be more hard-headed than you, and it could be difficult for them to do something they aren’t accustomed to. You want them to change their behavior so much, you overlook the fact that maybe you need to change something. Their cold disposition to you may be a result of your behavior. Check your attitude, your demeanor, your work performance or your work product. Was it something you said that they aren’t letting go? Are you making their job more difficult? Find out from that person what you can do to make their job easier. Being the bigger person doesn’t mean caving in, but being adaptable.

If you are absolutely certain you are not in the wrong and haven’t said anything out of line, there could be a deeper issue at hand. The co-worker could be stressed, fearful their work product isn’t as good, fearful everyone else is outperforming them, or even fearful of losing their job. Take note of their interaction with other co-workers. Perhaps a worker doesn’t have good interpersonal skills, and their abrasion toward you is not personal. Learn to brush that off.

RESPECT THEM

If that co-worker is good at what they do, don’t be petty or jealous. If they are doing a good job, compliment them. Don’t expect one back, but try encouraging an environment in which peers recognize quality work. You’ll earn respect from your peers because they’ll notice you are paying attention to their work.

TALK TO A MANAGER

If the relationship hinders your work performance, bring it up with a manager. Their role is also to play peacemaker. It’s not tattling, either. I am not one for passive-aggressiveness; I prefer an honest approach to problem solving. Dodging problems only makes the relationship worse. If you and the co-worker can’t fix the problem together, sit down with the manager, and the three of you should come to a solution. Make sure the focus is on what you can do to improve the relationship; avoid talking about those “he said, she said” moments. Whatever the manager decides for you, accept it and work with it.

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