By Kerri Anne from kerrianne.org
Wear feathers that don’t easily ruffle.
I’m not talking about dress code here, though if you want to wear feathers to work (and can pull it off with gusto), but all means, go for it! What I am talking about is erecting an emotional barrier in order to protect yourself from barbs, whether intentionally and unintentionally thrown in your direction. In a perfect world you would work hard at your job, enjoy what you’re doing, and your superiors and/or clients would appreciate everything you do on a daily basis. Unfortunately, while this Utopian workplace probably exists somewhere, it isn’t commonplace, so until you find it (or create it), you’re probably going to have to deal with people who don’t tell you what a great job you’re doing as quickly as they’ll tell you when they’re dissatisfied with something you did or didn’t do.
Rolling with the punches is one of the best ways to stay sane in any workplace. As soon as you can accept and acknowledge that not everything is about you, the better off you’ll be. Bosses and colleagues have bad days. They can be edgy, frazzled: downright grumpy. I used to internalize every bad day my co-workers and executives were having until I found myself sitting with knots in my stomach, racking my brain for what offense I had committed that must have upset them. When I finally realized that, just like in non-work relationships, not everything (and arguably, not much) is all about me, I started to breathe easier, and (almost magically!) my co-workers and bosses started to become a whole lot less difficult to work with.
Communicate. Even when you don’t want to.
I cannot stress communication enough in the workplace, especially if you’re faced with difficult bosses and colleagues. I would don a cheerleading uniform (something no one probably wants to see) and rock a set of way-too-colorful pom-poms if I had to, just to prove how serious I am about the c-word. Communication (the assertive, but respectful kind) is a foolproof way to resolve issues, while simultaneously impressing your supervisors and colleagues. Not only will you most likely solve whatever crisis is before you in record time, but you’ll also look super mature and, wait for it…professional! when you take the necessary conversational plunge.
I’m not saying this is going to be easy. Sometimes it will be (and I hope for you, it is!), but often times supervisors and/or colleagues are super intimidating. Sometimes they themselves are horrible communicators. Schedule a time to talk anyway. Imagine the word “schedule” in the previous sentence is a crowned king (or queen!) riding in a gold chariot with magnificent plum-colored robes and the best smile you’ve ever seen. Attempting to talk to someone about something difficult (or even something simple!) when either a) you aren’t ready for said conversation, or b) they’re not, is a recipe for conversational disaster. Setting a date to talk about whatever it is that needs talking about (even if it’s just a few hours in the future) also gives you time to gather your thoughts on the subject at hand, so that you can present a clear argument, if an argument indeed needs to be made.
Put it in writing.
This is important, especially from an HR record-keeping standpoint. If your company doesn’t have a policy for recording grievances (they should, and), start logging the details (dates, times, incidents) yourself. Writing down the difficulties you’re having with either a boss or colleague not only serves as an electronic record should you need to supply one at a later date, but writing thoughts into coherent sentences also helps you focus on the issues at hand, and oftentimes you’ll be able to discern what’s really bothering you, and quite possibly: how to fix it!
Own your job description.
This one is pretty self-explanatory: know your job and do it to the best of your ability. If you’re feeling as if your job description is unclear: talk to your supervisor. If you’re uncomfortable talking to your supervisor (you might want to ask why that is, and take steps to bridge that communicative gap; see above!), find someone you can talk to. An HR outlet somewhere in your office, another co-worker, the ever-approachable Bird-of-Paradise in the conference room. The overall point is: you need to know what’s expected of you before you can have a happy, symbiotic working relationship with any company, any boss, or any colleague.
If disputes are what you’re dealing with on a regular basis, and issues aren’t getting solved in a timely fashion, I would first suggest climbing as high as you need to on the corporate reporting ladder in order to fight for/maintain your sanity and your productive work environment. Again, HR resources should be there to assist you, and to point you in the direction of someone who can be your advocate, if they themselves cannot. (A company’s HR department’s primary loyalty is of course going to be to the company, but they should have mediation experience and a list of third-party mediators and resources available for you, as well.)
Sometimes, an unhealthy/hostile work environment is just that. And sometimes, quite unfortunately for all parties involved, there is no fixing it. Sometimes personality clashes are so severe that you’re miserable every single day and trust me, I’ve been there. If you find yourself in that place, run, don’t walk, toward the nearest exit. While I am never cavalier about walking away from gainful employment, this is one of those cases where I can promise you the grass really is greener on the other side.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share?
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