Since we can't pick our co-workers the way we'd choose our friends, it's inevitable that all of us must deal with people we don't necessarily like. Women For Hire CEO Tory Johnson offers advice on how to cope with colleagues and achieve the sanity and respect you deserve.
Problem: Demeaning bosses
Solution: One common complaint among employees is a boss who routinely is demeaning. You don't want to become argumentative, but after awhile it's hard to just keep taking it on the chin. The best solution is to politely and firmly address this behavior. Instead of stewing about how rudely you're treated, ask to have a conversation about this. For example, "Yesterday when you yelled at me in front of our team, I felt disrespected and embarrassed. I want to learn and grow from your feedback and direction, but I'd appreciate if you spoke to me in a professional tone. And if you have harsh words for me, perhaps you'd consider addressing them with me in private." When you don't speak up, you're in essence giving the boss permission to continue speaking to you that way.
Problem: Credit-grabbing bosses.
Solution: Many employees often complain about a boss who takes all of the credit even though they're not doing the work. If you're the one working so hard to produce great results, this can be really maddening. First, remember that your good work, as well as your failures, are a reflection on your boss. So the boss deserves some credit for your accomplishments since they're part of his/her whole team. However, this can stifle your confidence and hold you back from advancement, so ask to discuss it directly.
Be prepared with a list of your accomplishments and don't accuse your boss of hogging the credit. You can say, "One of the barriers to achieving even greater success is my feeling that I don't receive full credit for my work. Receiving this credit and recognition is a great motivator for me." Going forward, without obnoxiously flaunting it, you can let your colleagues know about the work you're doing and the ideas you're presenting, so there's a witness to your achievements.
Problem: Slacker colleagues
Solution: Another frustration is colleagues who don't pull their own weight. They slack off or make mistakes and you're tired of it. Don't attack personally. Keep your constructive criticism professional at all times. "You're always making the dumbest mistakes -- how could you be so stupid" is not the way to speak to colleagues. A better approach would be, "Our team needs everyone's full best efforts to get this task done successfully. Since you're having some difficulty meeting deadlines and delivering error-free work, I'd be happy to work with you to set up a system of checks and balances, which should help."
Problem: Noisy colleagues
Solution: We receive a lot of e-mails from viewers complaining about their co-workers who talk too loudly, laugh outrageously, and even make annoying sounds while eating and drinking. The reality is people do make noise. Unless it's a library, it's almost impossible to expect silence. You have a few options: See if your desk can be relocated to a quieter spot. Politely ask your co-worker to please be more mindful of your sensitivity to the excessive noise. "I know you might not even realize this, but I find it difficult to concentrate with loud voices and excessive noise in this office. If you would keep this in mind, I'd be very appreciative." Wear headphones and listen to music while working, or invest in earplugs.
Problem: Criticism directed at you
Solution: Take a look at yourself. Sometimes it feels like everyone's picking on us. If this sounds familiar, my best advice is to take a look at yourself. Sometimes we are indeed the problem. Sometimes we're not absolutely perfect to work with. I plead guilty to this. I've been short-tempered, snippy and not always perfectly pleasant, which can rub people the wrong way. Whenever this happens, I remind myself that I have to set an example for everyone who works for me -- and that it's not OK to treat people dismissively or unprofessionally.
Ask a trusted colleague to give it to you straight: "If there are three areas that you could suggest to me for improving my behavior with work in an effort to improve my relationship with colleagues, what would they be?"
Share a coffee break. Sometimes the best way to break the tension is to step out of the office. Ask a colleague if he or she would be willing to grab a cup of coffee to chat because on neutral territory it's often more difficult for a colleague to talk down to you. Use this as a time to repair and rebuild relationships that could use it.Your conversation can be about work, as well as life in general. For example, it's August, you might ask if someone plans to take a vacation or if they've had one.
Problem: Finding fulfillment in your work
Solution: Sometimes in the face of difficult co-workers, we have to focus our source of fulfillment at work elsewhere. A study presented Sunday at the American Psychological Association convention says that employees who don't know who benefits from their work can be unhappy on the job.
Identify the beneficiary. Salespeople who interact with customers are said to be more satisfied than the stock room clerks who rarely face the public. If you're in the stock room, ask for feedback from the salespeople about the merchandise they're selling.If you hear stories of satisfied customers -- even if you can't connect with them personally -- it helps to feel better about the shelves you're stocking since you know there's a greater purpose at work. This is true in many lines of work: in hospital administration, everyone is working for the greater good of the patient, not just the doctors and nurses. For example, I might be an accountant for a hospital, and on my way into the building, I'm stopped by a patient who asks for directions. Instead of pointing them in the right way, I'm trained to escort that person -- which not only provides a high level of service, but also leaves me feeling good about my job.
Set realistic expectations. We can't all cure cancer or fight poverty. It's unreasonable to expect to be happy or fulfilled 100 percent of the time. And the grass isn't always greener on the other side. It's often easier to make your current situation work than to automatically assume you'll find perfection elsewhere. No job or work environment is absolute bliss. But hopefully, the good outweighs the bad and you can make adjustments to identify meaningful, happy moments for which you can be very proud.
For more career advice from Women For Hire CEO Tory Johnson, visit www.womenforhire.com. Johnson's latest book is "Women For Hire's Get-Ahead Guide to Career Success."