Workplaces are complex organisms. Many employee engagement survey results point to the kind of relationships workplace teams cultivate and share. A toxic work environment sends employee engagement plummeting.
Nevertheless, in the span of someone’s career, people end up working with all kinds of unique individuals and personalities. There’s a fair share of toxic people out there. It’s just, unfortunately, part of being a human being and having to deal with other human beings. The previous post was about ghoulish and monstrous bosses.
Today, we’re going to discuss ways to work with people, even when you don’t like them, even when they’re toxic. Because, at the end of the day, you have a job to do.
1. You don’t have to like everybody. But you have to be respectful. This is pretty much Kindergarten 101, but it’s something, as adults, we forget. It’s important to recognize not liking someone doesn’t make you a bad person. (It’s likely the feeling is mutual). Accept this and move on, focusing on the job.
2. It’s not them, it’s you. Think of the typical breakup phrase, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Does this apply to you at the workplace? Are you the problem? This takes some digging deep and getting emotional distance from a situation. Are you falling behind on commitments? Do you cause tension because of abrasive remarks? Do things that bother you about coworkers mirror the flaws you see in yourself? Fixing relationships with colleagues can start with you fixing your own behavior.
3. Get your game face on. This is a remarkable life skill. There is no lack of ludicrous behavior in life. This certainly doesn’t mean you have to go along with things, but when you keep your cool, you keep control of the situation. Pre-imagine a conversation and think of ways of how you will hold your temper. You don’t need to react to someone’s irrationality (perceived) or bad behavior. When you’re able to pull off a face of neutrality, you are able to dominate emotion.
4. Focus on the issues, not person. Are you dismissing someone’s idea because you don’t like him? Are you quick to judge? As much as you can, separate the personal from the professional and focus on the issues at hand. The goal of the team should be to succeed, regardless of who comes up with the ideas.
5. Document, document, document. It’s all too common for these complaints to stay in the “he said, she said” zone. Instead of talking to your coworker, start e-mailing, texting, keeping everything written. If there is a meeting, send a follow-up e-mail so that what was said is documented. This helps hold everyone accountable and keep the snark to a minimum.
6. Keep it to yourself. Steer clear of office gossip. When people start talking, start walking. It’s so easy to get caught up in the juice and want to add to it. Take pause. Will talking bad about a colleague make you feel better? Will it improve your relationship? Will it make your job better? (No, no, no). So inhale, exhale, and walk away.
7. Know the procedures. Every workplace should have procedures and protocols to follow in order to lodge complaints. Talk to your manager. Talk to HR. Find ways to work around a contentious relationship. This shouldn’t be your first place to go, but it definitely is an option.
Part of being human is dealing with other humans that we simply don’t like. It doesn’t mean your job is bad or your career is going down in a cesspool. It’s pretty much a normal part of … being human. The sooner you learn to develop these “get along” skills, the more successful you’ll become.