From Collector: Plays Well With Others

How to manage difficult relationships with your coworkers.

1/11/2019 8:00 AM

NewsCollector Magazine
From Collector: Plays Well With Others

There will be times when your coworkers feel like a second family to you, offering their support and taking a genuine interest in your life. There will also be times when they rub you the wrong way, and every little thing they do drives you crazy. What do you do when a coworker is being rude to you or whose consistently negative attitude is ruining your day? Here are a few things you can try to turn the situation around, Collector magazine editor Anne Rosso May reports in the December 2018 issue.

Address the Elephant in the Room

The most direct approach is, of course, to talk to the person privately about what’s going on.

But if you’re not quite ready to be that blunt, you can get the ball rolling by being a little vague. You could try: “How are you doing? I know things have been super busy here and we’re all a little stressed. It feels like people are being kind of snippy with each other, don’t you think?”

Including yourself in the solution can make the conversation feel less like an attack.

For example, you could try: “Have you noticed how negative people are being lately?

I don’t know about you, but I work better in a positive environment. What do you think we can do to turn things around?”

Keep Calm and Carry On

If that conversation doesn’t do the trick—and completely avoiding the person isn’t an option—focus on the role you play in the person’s behavior. When your cubicle mate complains about another coworker, do you say, “Yeah, I know,” because you don’t want to make waves? Don’t. Instead, be a role model. Speak up when people are mean, or use nonverbal cues to indicate you’re not going to engage with that type of conversation. Raising your eyebrows in disbelief, shaking your head or simply walking away can speak volumes.

Not all office gossip is bad. Sometimes it’s reassuring to know that other people in your department feel the way you do.

Constructive gossip can even help you find a way to cope with a bad situation.

But if fear-mongering gossip is creating a toxic atmosphere, do your best not to add fuel to the fire. Don’t be afraid to question outlandish rumors or tell the person: “Sorry, I try not to get involved in drama like that.”

Talk to Your Boss

There are minor workplace disagreements and then there is harassment-level bad behavior that should be escalated to the appropriate leader. If you feel bullied, or if it seems like there’s nothing you can do to fix the situation, request a meeting with your supervisor to talk through everything. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your boss, check in with HR. The solution might be as simple as moving to a new desk, away from the person who is causing you grief.

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