Beliefnet
Everyday Ethics

Ever wondered whether you’re speaking different languages (or inhabiting different planets) when you’re trying to communicate with a particular coworker-who-shall-not-be-named? Ever felt like tearing your hair out (or theirs) every time you’re forced to cooperate with a certain so-and-so on a project?

In other words, does someone at your job make you wanna scream?
I’m blessed to have a team of incredibly supportive, intelligent, and above all, reasonable people in my workplace. However, that’s not always been the case. There’ve been times when I’ve butted heads with people on the job, and when people have butted right back at me. It’s awful. It’s frustrating. And…


…I can’t afford to act like I’m three when it happens.

Much as I want to be unprofessional, tattle on them to my boss and say, “She’s a poopy-head, she’s making me crazy, and she’s bad at her job,” that just doesn’t fly in the real world. For one thing, most of the time, it’s my job to suck it up and find a way to work with the limitations of my co-workers. And for another…
Who the heck knows what I’m doing that’s grating on them? I’ve been known to be arrogant, to make mistakes, to be unclear a time or two. I’m not all smooth edges, and I’ve definitely still got issues with tactfulness.
So. What’s to be done when you just can’t see eye-to-eye with somebody with whom you can’t avoid interacting? I’ve thought a lot about this, asked advice from friends and family, and so far, here’s what I’ve come up with.
  1. Try different strategies. If person X doesn’t respond to your usual modus operandi, try putting yourself in their heads and asking yourself what the disconnect is. In other words, on Venus, what do the natives do when they need an Excel Spreadsheet sorted?
  2. Be open: admit to the person that you feel there’s a communication problem, ask them if they sense it too. Ask them how they would like to resolve it ideally. Be clear and specific about your own needs and what changes you would like to see. Unfortunately, if you’re working with someone angry or defensive (or paranoid), this can really backfire. It also doesn’t work well with a superior, and may not work well with someone who’s your junior either, so it’s a tough call on when to employ this method.
  3. Take your concerns to the boss or HR department. IF you have a concerned manager who is the sort who doesn’t mind stepping in, and won’t get hysterical, and won’t fire either one of you. These are big ifs, so be sure to document your gripes as much as possible so you can back up your claims.
  4. Be the bigger person. Stop worrying about what they think of you, stop stressing over the mess they are making, and just keep your own nose to the grindstone. But how does that work if you’re stuck on a project together and your results depend on your combined efforts? What if their slacking off is forcing you to work twice as hard? How do you keep rage and resentment from keeping you up nights? (I haven’t figured this one out!)
  5. Get fed up and do the work yourself. Not ideal, but great for control freaks.
Well, that’s my list.  What do you do? 

Subscribe to receive updates from Everyday Ethics or follow us on Twitter! 
Previous Posts
Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus