Office Life: How to Work With Someone You Hate

Office Life: How to Work With Someone You Hate

There is a reason we have the archetype of the annoying co-worker; most of us have met one in our office life, and all of us can relate. But none of us really seek conflict. Well, some of us do. But, we’ll concentrate on the sane majority: conflict is unavoidable. Whether it’s a passer-by knocking into you for a split-second or an incessant neighbour you’ve had to deal with for ten years, there will always be someone there who can spoil your day with no effort at all. But what can you do, right?

Well, something, if it’s someone at work. Receiving negative behaviour can affect your mood, which in turn can affect your performance, and instead of putting efforts into cooperation and doing your job, you may soon find that it’s going into holding back insults. Or worse, expressing them. With the right approach, you can beat the temptation.

Several psychologists advise a daily relaxation method. Studies have shown that it effectively allows you to manage your behaviour. Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman says, “There’s no shortage of stressors in our lives: money, jobs, health issues, strained relationships and grim news reports from around the world. Our system isn’t programmed to be in constant fight or flight mode. The body needs regular periods of rest and relaxation. Practising relaxation techniques regularly can help you balance your nervous system, feel more at ease, and better cope with life’s stressful challenges.” One of the most common forms of these exercises is to concentrate on breathing. However, some people find that they don’t have the time to indulge in this method – so what else can be done?

One of the easiest things to do in reaction to friction with a co-worker is to seek confirmation of our own opinions from our colleagues. We have all met the lazy teenager who would rather be at home playing Bioshock, chicken dippers at the ready. And the first thing we want to do when he leaves the room is catch someone’s eye and shake our heads. This kind of behaviour is instinctive, but do resist it; complaining about someone in your office can reflect negatively on you. You don’t want to be labelled as unprofessional, or worse, take on the role of the annoyer to someone else in the office.

Still not convinced? Perhaps the answer lies outside of common sense. Counterintuitively, spending time with a co-worker (in a professional context) could shed some light on any specific problems you may have with him/her. You could even develop some empathy. If the girl at the desk next to you relentlessly taps her pen even after you’ve asked her to stop and you then learn that her actions derive from a severe obsessive compulsive disorder, your frame of mind might change.

Of course, failing this still, we have the final solution: shut it out. If there really is nothing else that can be done, then accept that nothing can be done and reframe the situation, neutralising the effect on yourself in the process. Do manage your reaction, do try and empathise with the co-worker; don’t place the blame entirely on them, don’t seek confirmation from colleagues, and before you know it, you’ll wonder why there was ever a problem in the first place in your office life.

by Harry Lawrence | 17 April 2013

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