How To Get Along with People at Work
It would be great if all of your coworkers were kind, considerate, focused people who do all they can to contribute to an awesome working environment. But, in reality, that is rarely the case. Unfortunately, when people get together in a workplace it is so easy for petty politics and irritating annoyances to take over. So, the challenge becomes, how do you to deal with it?
Displeasure in the workplace has thoroughly permeated our culture when movies like “Office Space” and TV shows like “The Office” parody life at work for sheer entertainment value. When we get to the point where we need that release from the drudgery of our own work life, why not watch a totally screwed up workplace for fun? It makes us feel better… for a while. But, eventually you’ll find yourself back at work, facing reality again. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have some strategies to use when you are confronted with people issues at work?
A good place to start with is the book Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner. It first came out in 1994, and was an international bestseller. The 2002 edition is updated to include how technology has impacted and continues to affect how we get along with others. One key point the authors make is that while you cannot make someone change their behavior, you can change how you react to them, which in turn may end up affecting the situation in a positive way. This is crux of how the authors help you to deal with 10 difficult behaviors that may come up from time to time. There is the Tank, the Sniper, the Grenade, the Know-It-All, the Think-They-Know-It-All, the Yes Person, the Maybe Person, the Nothing Person, the No Person, and the Whiner. To prepare you to deal with these behaviors, it is helpful to understand why people end up acting out in these ways. The authors discuss people’s motivations and how even well intentioned people can be difficult when they are not properly understood. With this critical knowledge, the authors go into detail with specific strategies they recommend for each type of behavior. Very useful for the workplace, especially when the goal is not necessarily to be the victor, but to end up with a constructive working relationship. If you are serious about changing your relationship with difficult people, Dealing With People You Can’t Stand is highly recommended.
Vicky Oliver’s Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots: 201 Smart Ways to Handle the Toughest People Issues gives you practical advice that you can use to combat a number of specific issues in the workplace. Oliver has great strategies for bosses, coworkers, and even you (if you happen to be sabotaging yourself), and she manages to convey all this information with a good dose of humor and perspective. For example, she gives you hints on how to handle bosses like “The Boss Who Doubles as the Wizard of Oz” (the absentee boss) and “The Predator” (he’s eyeing you, and not just for a promotion). Likewise with coworkers and employees, there is “The Veteran Hack” (he’s being doing it the same way since before you were born) and “Your Partner Judas” (when he’s not working with you, he’s trying to stab you in the back). And if, by chance, the following descriptions sound a little too familiar, maybe the problem is with you, as in “I’m Too Smart For This Job” (the people I work with are idiots!) and “I Hate Coming to Work Every Day” (I’m counting the minutes until Friday). These are only some of the situations that are covered, and there are many more where those came from. In the end, Oliver ends up presenting workable survival strategies and tips to help you through, and hopefully, towards a better workplace for everyone.
And if you just need a laugh (because it’s better than getting ulcers, or hitting your head against the wall) then check out There’s No I in Office: 4293 Meaningless Phrases to Keep Your Coworkers Smiling While Avoiding Actual Conversation by Jacob Lentz and Paul Koehorst. The authors present a good case why, while you need to speak to people at work (to avoid looking like a complete jerk), what you say doesn’t actually have to make any sense. It is so weirdly stupid an idea, it just might work! I mean, politicians have been using this technique for decades, so why not the average person? There are little gems that you can say in everyday office situations. Like to the coworker who arrives earlier than you do, “How is that whole sleeping under your desk thing working for you?” Or when passing someone in the hall, “I’m just trying to work off lunch, how about you?” Getting along with people doesn’t have to be rocket science. With some well-timed phrases, even you can humorously interrupt the person who can’t stop talking about their iPhone. Or how about what to say to the coworker who sell’s their kid’s fundraising products in the office? They even give you tips if/when someone accidentally barges into your bathroom stall (yikes!). And the book goes on and on… Free yourself from mind numbing, banal work conversations and inject a little originality and fun to your day.
In closing, I’d like to share one piece of advice I received from my mother before starting my first “real” job, which has served me well. She warned me against getting involved with office gossip. Because, she said, if you do, one way or another, it will always come back to bite you (or words to that effect). As it turns out, she was right! I have personally witnessed people needlessly adding extra stress to their lives because they didn’t follow this simple principle. But, (understandably so) it can be a very tempting thing to do! So for example, if the conversation over lunch turns into a session of bad-mouthing so-in-so over in accounting, instead of joining in, just shrug and change the subject (like, “Can you believe what happened to Italy in the World Cup!?”). Trust me, you will save yourself a whole heap of trouble and bother by employing this simple technique.
Do you have any sage advice for getting along with your coworkers? Why not let others in on your wisdom and good knowledge and share it below!