Arguing with Colleagues

Lots of people dread going to work in the morning, but this often has nothing to do with the work itself. Even the most tedious tasks can be enjoyable if you're working with people you like, and by the same token, your dream job can quickly turn into a nightmare when you don't get on with your colleagues.

If the people you work with are causing you stress, here are a few tips that can will hopefully make your working life a little bit easier:

Learn about the colleagues you dislike

If you know someone quite well, you are more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt when they do something that annoys you (whereas you may find it hard to tolerate such behaviour from a virtual stranger). Take some time to learn about your colleagues - who they are, what they're like, what makes them tick - and you may find it easier to like them.

Tip: Perhaps that short-tempered colleague of yours has just gone through a bad divorce that has left them exhausted or impatient. Or maybe management recently refused them a promotion. In any case, getting to know your co-workers will help you to understand where they are coming from and could help you learn to like them more.

Never gossip about your colleagues

When a co-worker is stressing you out, it can be tempting to vent your frustration to other colleagues once the offender is out of the room. You may even feel like spreading gossip about the person in the office or lab that you're not particularly fond of, but ask yourself: what good will come from doing this? Will it help build your relationship with them? Will it improve your chances of future promotion? Will it make your department work harder and more efficiently? The answer, of course, is no.

Tip: Instead of potentially making the relationship worse, try to find ways to improve it by being professional and respectful even to the colleagues who get on your nerves. If you do feel the need to say something, say it to the person's face (or make a formal complaint to management if necessary) rather than talking about someone behind their back.

Be the adult

When you were in school, teachers would expect you to be civil to everyone, no matter who they were or what may have happened between you. If you were able to do that as a child, you should have no problem doing it now!

Tip: You don't have to become best friends with the person you dislike - just be polite. Get on with your job, help others where you can, and if at possible, do not respond to childish bad behaviour. You might be surprised to find that professionalism can be very contagious!

Document your conversations

But what if a co-worker is doing more than merely getting on your nerves? Colleagues can sometimes say/do horrible things that make you feel uncomfortable or even unsafe. Words and actions can have a tremendous effect on a person - and it's important to report unacceptable behaviour to management so that it can be dealt with - but it can be hard to prove that someone said or did something if there is no record of it taking place. So what can you do? Make a record!

Tip: If you're having serious issues with a particular individual, try to stop speaking to them face-to-face and instead communicate via email so that every interaction can be documented. They may be more professional when they know that there will be a written record of any transgressions, and if their bad behaviour continues, you'll be able to prove it!

Are you the problem?

It can be hard to admit, but in some cases, dislike for a colleague may be due to that person not having the same bad habits as you. Nobody likes being criticised or told what to do, but before you take action, examine your own behaviour to make sure you're not giving others a valid reason to complain.

Tip: If someone keeps nagging you to complete a particular task, is it because they're impatient, or is it because you consistently let them down? If the latter, changing your own behaviour may trigger a dramatic improvement in the relationship between you and your colleague.

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