In every organization, no matter how big or small they could appear, there will always be that one person or individual in which co-workers within the same organization might not really find working with, that interesting. Such a person could be anybody- your boss, out of control colleague or a moody customer: all these are people we cannot but have some dealings with while we go about our work. At times, they make life difficult; and they may even make you query your sense of dignity. There are times we think that perhaps, if they are not there; we could succeed on our own or get things done quicker. (My boss used to think this way). But the truth of the matter is this; some of them could even end up being the catalyst for one’s professional advancement. As Diana McLain Smith puts it: “Anytime you find yourself up against somebody who frustrates you, that person is telling you that you are at the limits of your competence,” she says. “That is why you are frustrated – because you don’t know how to deal with them”. So, since there is no sign that some of these colleagues of yours would go away soon, how can you find working with them easy?
Two weeks ago, I brought to your attention how you can enjoy a smooth working relationship with your hard boss. In case you missed it, you might want to read here again - The Principle of Work: Managing a Hard Boss. Perhaps if the colleague you are currently having issues with is your boss, you can combine what you are reading now with what has already been penned down under managing a hard boss - I believe it would be effective for you. Let us concentrate on our contemporary colleagues in this very issue. Too often, work stress and burnouts involve problems with contemporary coworkers. Whether their behavior imposes insignificant annoyances or on purpose sabotages your efforts and energy, such a colleague can make life at work stressful and unpleasant. Contemporary coworkers are those you undoubtedly are in the same cadre with - age wise, academic achievements wise, status wise and probably, both of you might even have your workstation beside each other. Your boss may not probably fit into this category.
So, how can you manage that difficult colleague of yours? The starting point is this. Don't criticize or blame, and avoid judgmental language. When you engage in these aforementioned points, you might probably end up worsening your relationship with your colleague. Instead, try to offer practical suggestions that would enhance the relationship between you both. Point out what you both agree on at the beginning of the conversation. This may be a shared value or set goals. The truth is you may not see any significant improvement yet while you try to do this, but there is the place of perseverance. You will need to stay in charge of your purpose and your emotions since you are the one that wants to change a pattern of behavior in your colleague. The reason some colleague even behave in such manners might be because they are going through some stuffs in their lives, which sometimes bring out the negative emotions in them. It's important to remember that we all have off days and times in our life when things are trickier, and this may on occasion lead us to be less than lovely to people at work. So patience and time may be all that is needed for the individual to get themselves through times.
Secondly, do not go public with your grievances. More importantly, do not engage with that difficult colleague in the presence of other coworkers, your boss, or even the clients of the organization.In the course of working with others, there will surely be some whose work style or pattern is different from yours, people whose personality, preferences, and politics will be significantly different from yours and these differences at times may be the reason you are not getting along well withsuch a coworker. Letting your issues remain in the private will definitely make it easier to leave the misunderstanding behind you once it has been resolved. No matter how despicable the person’s behavior may be, keep your cool. An attempt to respond to every toxic behavior from such a colleague would make you highly immature. Also, avoid trash talks.
Lastly on this note, let Professionalism be the hallmark of the way and manner you relate with your difficult coworkers. People hardly go wrong when they conduct themselves in a professional manner. I once had difficulties in getting the drivers of the organization I worked with to cooperate with me. A number of times, you give them instructions, ask them to deliver parcels and they would give you some cold shoulder. For a few months, I tolerated them. At some point, I felt instead of shouting at them for not doing their job effectively, and probably exchanging some vulgar words and yelling at each other, all I did was to bring them to order by referring to the organization’s code of ethics. The moment I did this, I never had any course to scream or shout again before they knew the right thing to do with every instruction I give them. The point here is this. I could have felt because they are just drivers, and used my position as their boss to deal with them in some unprofessional manners- either by shouting or yelling at them. All I simply did was to handle them in some professional manner.
Let me conclude by saying the following things to you. Always accept people as they are. Do not try to change them or expect them to change on their own; it might really not work that way. I think the best you can do when you have such a difficult colleague is simply to take charge of your own emotions towards them. Doing this is a sign of self-discipline and there is need to do it. Always treat them with respect. The fact they are difficult does not mean you should not give them the courtesy that they demand.
Thank you for reading.