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Handling Difficult Coworkers
Like any social situation, a professional environment is bound to have its good and bad apples. There is no rule that says that once you find a job, you will enjoy working with each of your coworkers. In fact, you are bound to run into a colleague who irritates or even offends you. In these situations, it often becomes your responsibility to maintain a professional attitude. Here are some common types of “nightmare coworkers” and tips on how to keep your reputation intact, no matter what.
- The Office Gossip – Most offices have one person with a direct connection to the company grapevine. This person has the “scoop” all the time and is not afraid to share it. While it can be fun to be in on the office news for a while, it is best to be cautious when presented with office gossip. The majority of gossip is false and hurtful. If you keep information to yourself instead of passing it on, your coworkers will come to see you as reliable and trustworthy. In addition, deciding not to spread gossip is one of the best ways to keep yourself from eventually becoming the subject.
- The Constant Complainer – Misery loves company, and some individuals are just not happy in any situation. These employees are not afraid to complain, and do it often and vocally. But in an office environment, negativity often means lower productivity and company morale. Complainers typically seek out others who will share their grief. Your best bet is to listen respectfully if someone approaches you to vent, but not to join in. Sooner or later, the complainer will stop using you as a sounding board and you will not have to risk being labeled a negative employee.
- The Nosey Neighbor – Many workplaces are set up in an open environment, with employees situated in cubes rather than in offices. This layout is great for employees who love to learn as much as possible about coworkers’ professional and personal lives. If you are faced with a colleague who always knows what is going on in your life, you might want to be more discreet at work. This means keeping personal calls to a minimum, or utilizing a conference room to handle personal business. If your nosey neighbor has truly crossed the line, talk to your manager about the situation. The company may be able to make adjustments in the office layout to provide you with more privacy.
- The Office Thief – The office thief typically is not known for stealing pens and pencils, but for stealing credit and ideas. You may find that an idea you brought up casually is later presented formally by this individual, with no reference to your input. Unfortunately, you won’t do yourself much good by yelling “that was my idea!” Steer clear of this person, particularly when it comes to brainstorming or sharing ideas and materials. Be professional, but also be guarded in your interactions with the office thief.
- The All-Around Unpleasant Coworker – While some individuals in the office cause problems without being blatantly offensive, this individual is downright nasty. He or she is rude, arrogant, condescending, and just not enjoyable to be around. There are a couple of tips for dealing with this coworker. The first is realizing that you never know the whole story. This person might have something going on in his or her life that is causing the negativity. Try having an open conversation – privately, of course – to discuss the interactions between the two of you, but be careful about how you approach the conversation. You want to be seen as supportive and open, rather than accusing. Next, talk to your manager or human resources rep about the situation. It never hurts to document issues, and you may be able to decrease the amount of interaction you have with this individual.
Bottom line: If you keep out of the negative situations that arise, you will save yourself a great deal of heartache in the future. Remember that the workplace is an environment that mixes a wide variety of personality types. The trick is staying true to yourself, getting your job done and doing what you can to ensure you are happy at the end of each day, even if it means biting your tongue from time to time.
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