You get to choose a lot of things in life, but family and co-workers aren’t among them. While family ties are set in stone, your work eco-system (and colleagues) comes with the job. But either ways, both your personal and professional relationships demand sincere effort and attention. It also stands to reason that when your day is mostly divided between family and work colleagues, differences and disagreements are bound to creep in. You know your family members – their disposition, sensibilities, etc. and can reconcile any differences easily with them. However, you might or might not have the luxury of knowing your coworkers so well, so how do you deal with any recalcitrant colleagues and develop a cordial working relationship with them?
Accept what you can’t change
The first rule of any conflict – real or perceived – is to accept what you can’t change. Sometimes, there is dissonance even among family members, but we learn to live with it if we can’t remedy it. Following a similar approach at work will let you steer clear of any flashpoints. It will help you develop a well-adjusted outlook and dial down your expectations from work colleagues so that you can have a functional relationship with them.
Manage your emotions
When so many people work together, conflicts are inevitable. Learn to choose which battles to fight and which to steer clear of. Maybe, you are smarter than your peers, but you’ll be labelled as difficult and argumentative if you try to counter every suggestion they make. So, reserve your dissent only for areas which substantially affect the outcomes. And when you do that, don’t let your personal biases hijack the argument.Be professional in your conduct during a disagreement and present a fact-based and reasonable argument. Remember the rule, “10% arguments happen because of what you say and 90% by how you say.”
Spend time with your colleagues
“There are three ways of dealing with difference: domination, compromise, and integration. By domination only one side gets what it wants; by compromise neither side gets what it wants; by integration we find a way by which both sides may get what they wish.” Mary Parker Follett
Instead of avoiding the colleagues you don’t like – as counterintuitive as it sounds – engaging in projects with such colleagues will help you see their perspective. Spending time with them will allow you to gain insight into their mind-set. You might discover the reasons behind their actions, and find that they have nothing to do with you. Maybe their personal life is in shambles, which is dictating their behaviour at work. This realization might make you more compassionate. However, if this experience doesn’t offer you any positives and your co-worker continues to stonewall your efforts for a harmonious working relationship, do what your better judgement tells you.
The last resort
“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” Dale Carnegie
If all else fails, you might want to talk to your co-workers and give them an honest feedback. While doing so, choose your words carefully and talk only about the behaviors that they can control. Read the person’s temperament carefully before you do so. If they are receptive to feedback, give them an honest assessment of how their behaviour impacts your work performance, but if they come across as resentful and vindictive, you might want to tread cautiously. Also, be open to receiving feedback yourself. Chances are that there will be grudges on both sides. Remember, it takes two to tango.
In the end, remember that the feelings of frustration and disillusion stem from the belief that you have no control over things – be it your boss, or your difficult co-workers. You need to shake off the victim mentality and assume control. You can’t change their behaviours but you can manage your reactions to them. That, in itself, is an empowering feeling that allows you to navigate around such people effectively. Also, remember that everyone is trying to do their job, so strive to understand your colleagues’ perspective and never make it personal.
“If you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secret of getting along–whether it be business, family relations, or life itself.” Bernard Meltzer