Getting Along With Difficult Co-Workers
By Rebecca Thorman
Likability is a key factor to workplace success. If personality conflicts occur in the office, productivity slows and targets are missed. Here are five ways to deal with different personality types:
1. Give a feedback sandwich.
You may like speaking your mind, but others may not like to hear it. Most workers have a tough time receiving negative feedback, even when it's from someone they know, like, and admire. To ease the situation, try implementing a feedback sandwich. Start on a positive note ("I really like the work you've been completing"), continue with the potentially abrasive feedback ("but would love to see you meet deadlines"), and then end on another positive note ("so we can continue the momentum on this project").
2. Ask how the other person works.
If your colleague wants to achieve inbox zero every day, email is probably not the best way to communicate. Figure out how your colleagues and managers enjoy working and try your best not to interrupt their productivity flow. Your colleague may prefer you to ping her on Skype or stop by her office versus sending an email, for instance. Bending to other people's processes will position you as a team player, not to mention make it easier for you to push your own projects through.
3. Choose your battles.
There is a cost every time you engage in a workplace conflict and it's usually time. Projects get delayed and workers become stressed. Decide what your priorities are and let everything else go -- even if you know you're right. The key is to know when you should push an idea and when you shouldn't. High performers know success is less about proving themselves, and more about contributing to a shared vision. Relationships reign supreme.
4. Know that you're on the same team.
While the workplace can and should have multiple personalities and opinions, it's easy to forget that everyone is working toward the same objective. A colleague may not complete a task in the same way you would, but that's no reason to be divisive. You're all on the same team, working toward the same goal, and strong opinions are the sign of a passionate team; be grateful you're surrounded by people who care about their work as much as you do.
5. Respect other people's expertise.
Most people just want to be heard and validated. Respect and acknowledge that your colleagues have an expertise that you don't. If you can understand not only that you don't know it all, but you can't do it all, you'll find it's much more enjoyable to interact with your co-workers and get things done. Try not to undermine people's authority and instead, ask for their input, feedback, and advice when something comes up in their realm of expertise. They'll appreciate being consulted, and you'll learn something new.
Working with different personalities isn't easy, but it's always necessary. Remember, you can't change how others behave, but you can use these five strategies to increase your own odds at success.
Rebecca Thorman's weekly blog, Kontrary, offers tips to create the career, bank account and life you love, and is a popular destination for young professionals. Her goal is to help you find meaningful work, enjoy the heck out of it and earn more money. She writes from Washington, D.C.
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