Dealing With Difficult Office Colleagues

by | August 10, 2010

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Oneof the psychic benefits of a job is the camaraderie of working on a team, froma shared mission to the simple day-to-day water cooler interactions. But sometimes it’s not a bed of roses, andthere are people you see and work with everyday, with whom you don’t getalong. The ability to get along withpeople is an important skill set to cultivate.

Here are some strategies for managing difficult relationships:

Withthe colleague who often interrupts while you are trying to get your work done,be polite but firm in maintaining your space. As soon as he approaches let him know that you are in the middle ofsomething and ask him to send you an email with a specific request. The key point here is to stop the interruptionearly and bring it back to a specific action item that you can schedule on yourown time. Many offices have an open doorpolicy or open spaces without doors, so even with colleagues who don’t normallyinterrupt, you may need some alone time. When you absolutely need to focus, try to get to a conference roomspace, or at least put up a sign. Itcould be light-hearted like, "Crunching towards a 2p deadline so considerme MIA. Thanks!"

Withthe colleague who takes credit for your ideas, once you know she has thetendency to do this, you have to be vigilant about protecting your work. You should already be promoting yourself –collecting testimonials from people who have complimented your work, creatingand sharing status updates for your manager. So there should be some paper trail already that you arecontributing. With ideas, share themfirst with trusted mentors only and then directly with your manager. If it’s your manager that is taking yourideas, stand your ground that you want attribution for your stuff but remainpositive and assume the best intentions (i.e., she might have forgotten theoriginal seed of the idea and would have gladly given you credit.) Let her know that you’re glad she adopted youridea to X and would really appreciate having your contribution documented soyou can highlight it at the next review.

Withthe colleague who just doesn’t seem to like you and you can’t figure out why,just drop it if it’s not otherwise impacting your work. If this is someone who keeps you from doingyour job by not sharing data you need or otherwise not delivering, then youneed to build a bridge with this person and get along. Let him know that you feel there is a problemand ask directly for help in fixing it. Assume this is fixable, and be positive. But if it’s not impacting you professionally, just drop it. You don’t have to be social with all of yourcolleagues.

It’shelpful to try and get to the root causes of a problem if there is a specificproblem. But sometimes it’s personalityclash or you may be misinterpreting or reading too much into another person’sinteraction. So focus mainly on thingsyou can control: set boundaries; brandyourself; don’t assume everything is personal.

--Posted by Caroline Ceniza-Levine

Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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