When the office is a battlefield“Work is my second home,” says Walter Kim, a junior analyst.
But what happens when that second home, your bastion of refuge and comfort, becomes a battlefield? Your boss takes credit for your work, your coworker is driving you crazy, a staff member is a whiner and negativity is spreading like wildfire.
“Troublesome colleagues can have powerful negative capabilities and can easily make you look ineffective by, say, withholding information or missing deadlines,” according to a newsletter put out by the Institute of Management and Administration.
It is impossible to get along with everyone as a friend. But the support of your work colleagues can go a long way. Support can come in the form of help finishing a project, or recognition for work well done. But while you are able to choose your acquaintances, chances are you have less control over picking the people you work with.
Before committing to a new company, Mr. Kim, who asked that his name be changed for this story, met with his potential boss several times. He thought the company, his job, and his boss were all good matches. His boss took him out to lunch on his first day at work. Never again. Their relationship quickly deteriorated.
“It was hell,” Mr. Kim says. He wanted to learn from his boss, but all he got were heaps and heaps of work ― literally thrown at him. How did things go wrong? His boss’s interpersonal skills, or lack thereof, were at the root of their problem, according to Mr. Kim, who also admitted that he was part of the problem.
After one year of this continuous turmoil, Mr. Kim quit. Half a year later, his boss was fired. What did he learn? “Interpersonal skills are more important than you might imagine,” Mr. Kim says.
Lim Hyeon-soo worked at a public relations firm. Her boss had big ambitions, which made her workload spike as her boss began networking and delving into work for other positions. Her boss was promoted, but Ms. Lim was left behind. Soon afterwards, Ms. Lim resigned.
Could these two employees have done things differently? Are there personality types that will always drive each other up the wall? Should you accept a situation or try to change it, get even, or look for a new job?
Initially, Carol Barnes, a computer consultant, tried to get even with a colleague who she thought was doing her best to get Ms. Barnes fired. Ms. Barnes began taking notes on all their conversations and keeping tabs on her colleague’s work.
But after a while, the mind games became exhausting. “I let my supervisor know what was going on,” Ms. Barnes says. “I was stooping to my coworker’s level, and I decided to stop and concentrate on doing my job well.” Several months later, Ms. Barnes’ colleague was fired.
According to Rick Brinkman, the author of “Dealing with People You Can’t Stand,” changing one’s self is more realistic than changing the behavior of others. The importance of communication in any type of relationship cannot be stressed enough. The difficulty is that different people have different ways of communicating. He recommends figuring out your colleague’s method of communication and using that method to get through to her.
But when the situation is really tough and you have done all you can, finding a new job may be best.
According to Han Sang-gyun, a headhunter with Halcyon Search, a job search firm in Korea, some of his clients change jobs because of differences with their colleagues, especially with the boss. “Instead of two people trying to build their relationship, they often tear each other apart.”
But Mr. Han first recommends an employee have a candid discussion with his manager. If that proves fruitless, Mr. Han recommends talking to human resources. As a last resort, Mr. Han recommends trying to transfer to another division.
A human resources officer at Walter Kim’s former company who learned through the office gossip that Mr. Kim had left because of his supervisor called Mr. Kim to tell him, “You should have waited it out.” The boss was booted out less than a year later.
But as for Mr. Kim, he is only too happy he moved on.
PERSONALITY TYPES: Four of the 10 from “How to Deal with People You Can’t Stand.”
The Grenade: Blows his/her top all the time.
Solution: Long-term investment in keeping them cool.
The Yes Person: Nice people with a trail of broken commitments.
Solution: Help them plan. Make it safe for them to be honest.
The Know-It-All: Control freaks who are not interested in your ideas.
Solution: Know your stuff, show how your ideas take this person’s “brilliance” into account. This person could turn out to be a good mentor.
The Tank: The ends justify the means, and you’re probably an obstacle in the way.
Solution: Hold your ground, and provide justification for your position.
by Joe Yong-hee