Working in an office can seem like you’ve been cast in a sitcom – there’s the loud-mouth, the shy guy, the comedian, the grouch. How to negotiate and handle these personalities can keep you up at night. Maintain your focus – and your sanity – with these tips from Dr. Anne-Renee Testa to take back control.
This coworker with good looks and charm can pay you compliments all in good fun, but sometimes it can go too far. If you want him to back off, be clear that you are not encouraging him. Let him know that his behavior is a distraction to you and to others. If he continues to act inappropriately, be consistent and reject his advances. If he sees that you mean it, he will move on; if he gets any sense that you enjoy his game, his aggression will continue.
It can be taxing sitting in a cubicle next to this extreme type-a employee. She takes the lead on every assignment and won’t often collaborate with the team. Insecurity fuels her need for control, so it’s important to stroke her ego while getting her to cooperate and move a project along. Reassure her that her input is important, but remind her that this project is a reflection on the group, not just herself. Avoid these issues the next time around by taking the lead instead, but let her down easy: “You did a great job leading our last assignment, but I would like to take a shot this time.”
Even if you keep your personal life to yourself, you can still get hooked in to office drama. If a coworker starts talking about the intern’s emotional breakdown last week, don’t engage in the conversation. You are there to work. However, if you find out the office gossip is talking about you, a confrontation is in order. Make it known that her behavior is unacceptable: “I understand you told several of our coworkers about a conversation we had in confidence. I don’t appreciate that at all.” She will likely get defensive, but don’t back down. Instead, make it clear that her actions are jeopardizing her relationships in the office, and potentially her job. Reconsider why you confided in her in the first place.
The Boss’s Pet
This character can commit a variety of offenses – she might relay personal information about you back to the boss, or even take credit for your work. Let her know that you are on to her: “I’m doing my work, but it seems to be showing up as yours. I want it to stop.” If this is the truth, how can she argue otherwise? If she feigns ignorance, gather concrete examples of work she has stolen and how her behavior has impeded your work production. Bring these to human resources and let them sort out the mess.
The Silent One
At least with a loud-mouth you know what he’s thinking – but how do you deal with a coworker who always gives you the cold-shoulder? Not only does it make getting work done difficult, but it can be hurtful, too. If you’re paired together on an assignment and he won’t open up, be clear about how working well together is important for both of you: “This assignment offers visibility for both of us. I need more feedback from you.” Call him out, but don’t let on that his quiet nature has hurt your feelings – then he’ll be even less interested in forming a connection.
The Slacker. Though he is slacking off, don’t let his behavior distract you. Going to your boss won’t make you popular in the office, but don’t let his work become your responsibility.
The Micromanaging Boss. It’s hard to feel valued when your work is constantly scrutinized. Talk to her and give specific examples of projects where you could have done better if you weren’t on a short leash, and ask if there’s anything you’ve done to make her feel she can’t trust you.
The Overly Ambitious Intern. Set clear ground rules at the outset about what the expectations and assignments are. If you see him putting other interns down to get ahead, don’t hesitate to speak to him about his behavior.