So, You Can't Stand the Person in the Next Office?
by Rhoberta Shaler, PhD
What to do? There is someone at work you really have difficulty liking. It may be mild or it may be on your mind long before you get to the office in the morning. This can have a devastating effect on your day, not to mention on your career. Recently it was reported that, aside from promotion and better salary, most people leave their positions because of expressed or unexpressed conflict at work. So, you're in good company!
That information is stunning because it demonstrates the need for pro-active communication and conflict management training in the workplace. Equip yourself with these skills. They will be endlessly useful in all areas of your life. When I work on these skills with corporate groups, you can feel the relief in the air. Folks feel a greater sense of self-confidence when they have the skills to confront difficulties. Makes sense, doesn't it? If your workplace is suffering, work with your employer to have the issue recognized and addressed. Just one or two days of training can make an enormous difference.
Think of the lack of productivity that the stress of conflict creates. Who can attend to their work when they are concerned about possible confrontations, accusations or 'cold shoulders'? People have feelings. Feelings are powerful. Fear is one of the most powerful, and that's what's showing up when you work in a tension-filled environment. There is enough tension in the creativity and the deadlines that normal, productive work creates. Who needs tension caused by fear, poor communication and small minds?
The first and most important thing to do is to exam your own behavior. How are you treating that person you perceive as difficult? Is there anything in your posture, facial expression or tone of voice that prevents friendly interaction? Often, when you have already decided that you don't like someone, or that they don't like you, that attitude is conveyed in your non-verbal communication. Work on yourself first.
Invite the other person out to lunch or coffee. This is a discovery time. Learn more about them. Are they having difficulties in their life outside the workplace? What interests them? What might you have in common that could move your relationship in a better direction? Spend this time learning.
OK, you have nothing in common. They were miserable and close-mouthed. Nothing good came from it. Good. You now know that you made the effort and can rest comfortably with that. Next step, ask them for a meeting in the office. This takes courage, but, how much courage is it currently taking just to show up every day?
However, this is not a 'let-me-fix-you' type of meeting. Prepare for the meeting by creating a list of open-ended questions that will hopefully create discussion between you such as "How can we improve the relationship between us?" "What can we do to work together more collaboratively?" Signify your willingness to create a workable relationship.
What is the other person is not even mildly interested in conversing about change? That is when you have a decision to make. Live with it, or take it to the next level. The next level involves bringing a third person into the conversation, a person who is willing to manage the situation because it is in the best interest of the workplace. A mediator may be offered. There may be other people on your team who are experiencing the same difficulties with the same person. This makes change more imperative for your superior. Point out the benefits of managing this issue to the company.
No matter how it seems, no one really likes conflict. Some people create it because it makes them feel they have a modicum of control. Others create it as a cover for how little they are doing. Others have their own reasons and needs for keeping things in an uproar. You, though, are always at choice. You can always do something to remove the tension even if it means making a career shift. Sometimes, it's worth it, but only after you have done everything in your power to improve things. Confrontation is not a four-letter word!
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler, a noted international speaker and author, is the founder of the Optimize! Institute, and Your Spiritual Home, a worldwide center for Practical Spirituality & Everyday Myth. Her mission is "To uplift, inspire and motivate people worldwide to find joy, peace and success on their own terms". She is the author of Optimize Your Day: Practical Wisdom for Optimal Living and Wrestling Rhinos: Conquering Conflict in the Wilds of Work, as well as many other books and audio programs.
Rhoberta Shaler, PhD may be contacted at http://www.OptimizeInstitute.com or firstname.lastname@example.org