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Working With Co-Workers: A Business Survival Guide

written by: Olivia Emisar•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 9/9/2011

She is driving you crazy with her inane chatter while you are swamped with real work, and that fellow, the one with the off-color jokes, is chiming in and offending you by his mere presence. There are ways to handle every possible work situation that will benefit you professionally in the long run.

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    Rude Co-Workers and Constructive Criticism

    Stop We all have them, those people whose social skills were underdeveloped during their upbringing or downgraded severely due to personal factors in their lives—causing them to snap at people, be defensive and in many cases, attack someone without provocation because they have to be the first ones to get a jab into the conversation. All you know is that you just want a safe and happy place to work and would like for that behavior to stop.

    The reasons for their behaviors are many and their variables are complex. Unless you are a trained therapist in emotional disorders, it is best to follow protocols that do not involve therapy sessions in which you are the counselor. Learning how to deal with difficult co-workers is a professional skill that will become invaluable in most work settings and may be earn you a promotion and salary raise because you are the only adult in the room the boss can trust. By the way, even the boss may benefit from some constructive criticism, and if you are diplomatic enough, he may see you as his most trusted allied.

    Tip: If you are an employee and you find the behavior is getting worse regardless of your diplomatic involvement, you need to bring the behavior to the manager's attention to prevent further escalation. If you are a manager, you are opening the door to legal action if you don't follow established guidelines that closely mirror federal and state laws regarding harassment in the workplace.

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    Unacceptable Gossip

    Stress This type of co-worker can sour the day just by attempting to say, "Good Morning." You know that it does not end with the salutation but with a need for further attention that will inevitably lead to malicious remarks against other co-workers.

    He needs to be the center of attention and point out what is wrong with everyone else in the office. She is the one passing judgments on others because of the way they dress or who they associate with. They drive you nuts and create stress from the moment you step into the office. If you are an office manager, you need to create a pleasant work environment to keep employee morale and productivity high.

    Tip: Do not discount every office rumor as gossip. Learn to sort the information into what is valuable and nonsense because sometimes, the gossip-monger among us may very well be a step ahead of relevant information and help us save our jobs or find a new one ahead of lay-offs and budget cuts.

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    Hostility in the Workplace

    Hostility There is a difference between being rude and uncouth and being verbally or physically aggressive. Neither one belongs in the workplace but people whose aggressive behavior escalates as time goes by do not only create a hostile work environment in which others would rather not work, but they open the door to inevitable law suits. Management needs to monitor these people and their behaviors to avoid, what in some cases, has become a workplace massacre.

    Tip: We did not coin the phrase "Going Postal" out of thin air, and managers need to take precautions to ensure workplace safety.

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    Appropriate Workplace Behavior

    One of the best ways to change the dynamics in the workplace is to model appropriate behavior for others to emulate. While at times it may be difficult to retain composure and keep our most basic impulses in check, it will pay off in the long run for both employees and managers alike. The culture of the workplace can be fun, serious or casual but it should always be respectful and never cross the boundaries that could be viewed as a personal violation of privacy or safety.

    Tip: Managers should require every employee to review the employee manual annually, discuss any changes and provide clarification should some office behaviors become borderline offensive. The best practice is to nip the negative situations in the bud as quickly as possible.

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    Follow Procedures

    An employee handbook should contain the most basic principles on dress code, appropriate behavior and the repercussions for violations. None of these words mean anything without actual follow-through on the part of the manager responsible for her department. Modeling the appropriate behavior needs to come from the top-down and employees should make every effort to model the behavior to new hires. Some of the behaviors described here range from the annoying to the illegal, but every one of them has the potential to sour an employee-employer relationship and undermine confidence in the company's leadership.

    Chatting Personal Experience: The chatter-box in an adjoining cubicle would get glued to her desk phone as soon as she got to work. She got her job done while chatting with friends and family and put them on hold to take company calls. Her behavior was deemed unprofessional and disruptive to those around her who needed to concentrate on payroll and statistical data.

    Solution: She had verbal warnings, meetings and several write-ups. She refused to change her behavior and decided to quit her position before being fired. The chain of command and appropriate documentation shielded the company from a law suit, and the employee was given enough warning to modify her behavior. It was her choice and she chose to leave. A win-win situation for all involved.

    Who has irritated you recently? What have you done about it? And have you resolved the issue(s)? Leave us a comment so we can learn from each other and maybe even laugh at the similarities in our respective workplaces.

References

  • Images: Stop by Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net/ Strees by Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net / Hostility by Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net / Chatting by Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net