How to be a Good Co-Worker: Ditching the Drama
There are just so many rules to abide by when developing a good working relationship with someone whom you cannot stand. Believe me, your relationships with your co-workers are extremely important. They are the difference between a great day at work and five days of nine hour increments of pure unadulterated torture. If you are anything like me, and ninety percent of the population, you already hate your job - why make it that much worse?
You do not want to make it worse. Believe me. You so do not want to make it worse.
So, being your very good friend, I have compiled a list of tips and tricks for getting along with your coworkers. Or, at the very least, not snapping one day and slaughtering the bitch in the cracker aisle. No one looks good in prison orange. Nobody, not even you.
1. respect. respect. respect
This first step is really a no brainer. Respect is the foundation of any good relationship and something you should remember when starting one with your coworkers. Please remember they are not your friends and may not respond to your unique brand of humour as forgivingly. Avoid offending those you work with by not being a complete jackass. Do you know someone who is easily offended working in your store, office or section? It would do you best to maintain strictly work-based relationship with them.
Do you work with someone who you just do not get along with and cannot maintain a middle ground? Under no circumstance do you go around bad-mouthing them while in the office or to anyone you work with - this can cause problems for you down the road. Be mature about the situation, not everyone is going to like you nor do you need to be friends with everyone.
Have respect for the person by keeping your dislike for them to yourself, they are probably doing exactly the same thing.
2. avoid certain topics
Did you have the most amazing sex of your entire life, last night? Your coworkers do not need to hear about it. They also do not need to hear your opinions on religion or politics, when conversations drift into the more personal territory keep it light. Do you have a super funny story involving your friends, a stripper and three bodyguards?
Stop. Revaluate. Do they really need to hear the story? If I wouldn't tell the story to my grandmother than I'm not going to share it with my coworkers. This does not mean you cannot share anything personal with your coworkers but make sure you are exercising the use of your filter. Do you happen to share a favourite television show with one your coworkers? Talk about that but leave out the part where you have a room plastered with photos of the star. Because, not only does it make me uncomfortable typing, it would be an excellent example of things you should NOT say to your colleagues.
3. you can't choose them, live with them
You can choose your friends. You can choose not to speak to certain members of your family. You can choose to avoid the creepy waitress from the diner down the street. You can even avoid the mailman who has been leaving you love notes for two years but unfortunately, you cannot choose your coworkers.
You need to be the mature adult and live with them. Or quit. But the credit agency, your bank, and your school all have enjoyed receiving monies from you and may be a little upset when you stop delivering. They do not care you did not get along with Susan, your project manager.
So, whether you are working with an incessant chatterbox, an insufferable know-it-all or the infamous credit grabber you need to suck it up. Take it from me, my coworker absolutely does not like me but we work together because we both value our jobs more than our dislike for each other. We share pained awkward smiles. We make uncomfortable small talk when it's needed. And we generally stay out of each others way because our mutual dislike is tangible.
My mother use to say, 'kill them with kindness' whenever I ran into someone who I didn't necessarily get along with, although trite in its general delivery, it tends to work. Take comfort in the fact they are probably just as miserable as you are.
Be nice, awkwardly smile and countdown the hours until the day is over. You can even draw stick figures of them getting hit by an impossibly big truck, if it will make you feel better but when they come around - smile.
4. be polite and practice good workplace etiquette
The first thing you are told as a child before being sent off to conquer the playground is to be polite and respect the other children. Some may not want to play with you or like the fact you are better jungle gym climber, a sand castle builder or a top notch screamer - you need to respect them. There is an etiquette to the playground. It would do you good to remember your manners when in the office or at your store.
It is your job to impress the people you are working with, the responsibility does not lie with them. You must be punctual. You mustn't make people wait for things you have been asked to accomplish and you need to be a good team player. You may not need to be your coworkers best friend but generally, if they have an issue, you need to be open to their suggestion or issue.
If you have done everything you can think of to diffuse tension between yourself and a coworker and it still hasn't gotten better than you may need to resolve yourself to the fact it may not. There are people whom you will just need to remain simply coworkers with. Remain cordial, polite when addressed and remember your manners when working alongside them - it's human nature to be snippy with people you know do not like you, so watch your tone.
They are probably already hyperaware of the traits they do not like in you, no matter how little they may be, so the key is to not give them anything legitimate to bring to the boss. It is not the ideal situation but it will need to be something you live with.
What helps me get through a workday alone with certain coworkers I do not get along with is to remind myself the job I am working is temporary and will not be my career. If you find yourself working a permanent job and cannot stand someone in your department then maybe, if you feel it could potentially cause professional issues, address it privately with that person.
Some people can surprise you. I went to school with someone for nearly eight years and who shared some of my friends who I absolutely could not stand. I was always polite when I was forced to be in his company or we were at a party. During one party when we engaged in a conversation with another friend I came clean with him and stated, 'I don't know what it is about you but I generally do not like you' and you know what? He replied cooly, 'I have never cared for you either'
Seeing him after that was easier, we seemed to build common ground on our mutual dislike of each other. I would perhaps - in a working environment - vocalize my dislike more professionally before asking how the other person thinks we should continue on.
But, to be honest, when dealing with work related issues it's best to just grin and bear it.
S writes a variety of things for a variety of places. He is one of the co-founders of thetwentiesproject.com and regularly contributes there. Leave a comment, he loves to hear from you.