Playing nice with co-workers

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It is likely that most of us work with people we don't care for or people with whom we do not get-along.  In our personal lives, we can put people like this aside or tell people we no longer want them in our lives.  However, in this economy, if you want to keep your job, it seems increasingly necessary to "play nice" with co-workers, no matter how annoying or frustrating they can be. 

Author Robert Bacal holds a BA and MA in Psychology.  He has written books about employee performance, goals, training, inter-office professional relationships, customer service, and conflict resolution.  One of his books, titled, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dealing with Difficult Employees, discusses a tip for enduring annoying co-worker behavior.  Bacal states that it is important to identify who the problem belongs to.  Are you annoyed with a co-worker for something they do that bothers only you, or does this person's annoying behaviors also disrupt the workday of others on your team?  If it is only you, you may have to deal with this behavior, suffering in silence.  If it seems to be more universal, you may then have a case with a manager. 

When I am dealing with an annoying co-worker, I see them as almost something sub-human for me to endure.  I don't see them as a competent, experienced, knowledgeable team member who must have something to offer the advancement of our group's goals and company mission.  I see them as some type of entity whose main objective is to ruin my day by distracting me with their annoying behaviors.  I believe that I am guilty of making fundamental attribution errors about these people. 

Authors Janie Harden Fritz and Becky Omdahl discuss this phenomenon in their book, Problematic Relationships in the Workplace.  They describe these instances as "problem personality situations."  In these situations, we ascribe a co-workers annoying actions to their personality instead of an external influence.  Sound familiar?  Fundamental attribution errors are described in the same way.

So how do we move on?  An article by Mary Clare Jalonick for USATODAY.com lists three important factors in dealing with these situations: "pick your battles", "be honest", and "find inner peace, or a new desk."  There are simple and complex solutions to nearly every problem we face in life.  Making the decision is not always ours, but in this case we can strive for a happier workplace by either coping with a co-worker's annoying behavior, or by addressing it with either the individual or a manager.  There are likely more solutions outside of those posed here.  Some may be more creative and more geared toward resolution...or some may be more like my solution: insert ear buds, turn up volume, and make sure I have one hell of a rockin' playlist on Pandora.

 

References:

Jalonick, M.J.  (2002, November 12).  Don't let annoying co-workers drive you bananas.  Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/money/jobcenter/workplace/relationships/2002-11-12-annoying-coworkers_x.htm

Omdahl, B.L., & Harden Fritz, J.M.  (2006).  Problematic Relationships in the Workplace.  New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.

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4 Comments

I can't agree with you more about co-workers and at times being a distraction to not only you but get in the way of everyone else's productivity. I am unclear about what type of work setting you are describing which leads to to if there is an annoying and how it affects his/her surroundings depending on what kind of business you are in. I work in the hospitality business and for myself and my several coworkers we leave no room for slack or "dead weight" in our area. Just like any other job thee will always be a person here and there that will get in the way but in our setting the success comes from the ability to work cohesively together and not mess each other up. In my work setting whenever there is a problem that rises up it is shut down immediately. Any falter or bump in the road could easily make a slow night into a horrible dinner rush. So in my case whenever we have a problem we confront it settle it and move on, although sometimes tensions can get high during our work hours at the end of the day most people except probably that one employee know it had to be done for us to work smoothly and ultimately faster.

I can't agree with you more about co-workers and at times being a distraction to not only you but get in the way of everyone else's productivity. I am unclear about what type of work setting you are describing which leads to to if there is an annoying and how it affects his/her surroundings depending on what kind of business you are in. I work in the hospitality business and for myself and my several coworkers we leave no room for slack or "dead weight" in our area. Just like any other job thee will always be a person here and there that will get in the way but in our setting the success comes from the ability to work cohesively together and not mess each other up. In my work setting whenever there is a problem that rises up it is shut down immediately. Any falter or bump in the road could easily make a slow night into a horrible dinner rush. So in my case whenever we have a problem we confront it settle it and move on, although sometimes tensions can get high during our work hours at the end of the day most people except probably that one employee know it had to be done for us to work smoothly and ultimately faster.

Relationship problems are common everywhere, with the difference that in the work setting it’s impossible to choose who you are going to work with unless you’re the boss. As being the boss is not always possible, a common solution relies on what you do – isolate yourself from the world. Thinking about this reminded me of how intolerant we are toward people who act or hold different beliefs from us. As natural as it may seem, those differences make people segregate others, and then consciously or unconsciously we tend to separate people in in-group or out-group. I also realize that we tend to deindividualize the ones we don’t like, ranking them lower in aspects that are important to us – the other is not smart enough, it’s not practical, it’s lazy, etc., and by the end it becomes a type of prejudice. Even though we are taught either by religion or family background that all people should be treated equally, I find it an extreme effort of good will. It’s like the law of Physics – action and reaction, if people treat us well, we tend to treat them well back; if people do something that we don’t appreciate, we tend to commit the fundamental attribution error by inferring that the other did something for personal reasons. Sometimes I think that it’s a little hypocritical try to treat everybody the same if people are not the same.
An advantage that results from studying Psychology (in theory) is the possibility of applying concepts in real life, which in consequence may promote a better comprehension of other’s behaviors and attitudes. An interesting solution for interpersonal conflict is to identify styles of conflict management: obliging, integrating, avoiding, dominating, and compromising; conflict is best managed when individuals balance personal goals and requirements of a task in order to meet both personal and group goals (Kwantes, Bergeron, & Kaushal, 2005). Honestly, I never tried to apply this conflict model, but eventually it may help in your workplace!

Reference

Kwantes, C.T, Bergeron, S, & Kaushal, R. (2005). Applying Social Psychology to Diversity. In Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.A. (Eds.), Applied Social Psychology: understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (pp.331-354). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

We encounter may different personalities in the work place and it’s just not possible to get along with everyone. After just taking and I/O psychology course understanding personalities has improved my work environment. Traditionally, the “mental make-up” of individuals and “what makes them tick” is consider to be their personality (PSU PSYC 490-Lesson 6, 2011). Dealing with annoying lazy and unmotivated individuals can be aggravating and often very frustrating. At my place of employment I run into all kinds of people. There are those who just come to work to get a paycheck and could care less what type of work they produce. Then you have the ones who are always trying to one up you and there are those who just complain about everyone and everything. I think sticking splinters under my nails would be less painfully then working with these people.

Can we help change some of these annoying people and their personalities? Dweck (2008) stated that belief interventions do change such consistent patterns of experience and action will be central to the case that personality can be changed. Having a better understanding of personality I find that lately I have been more patient and accepting of others annoying habits. For instant some one at work was not doing their share so I confronted them. I had a pleasant and non threatening conservation with them and oddly enough it made a difference. This individual is not only doing their share but putting in extra effort. See a nice chat with annoying colleagues goes a long way!

References
Dweck, C. (2008). Can personality be changed? The role of beliefs in personality and change. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17 (6), 391-394.

Pennsylvania State University. (2011).  Lesson 6 - Personality. [OnlineLecture]. Retrieved from http://cms.psu.edu

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