Photo: By trawin on Flickr
We’ve all been there: a nasty co-worker plagues your work life with thinly veiled jabs and unnecessary competition. He or she might take credit for your ideas, humiliate you at meetings, or demean you privately.These colleagues are toxic to your workday and your sense of self, clinical psychologist Melanie Greenberg tells Psychology Today.
Often rooted in an ardent competitiveness, these people project their personal problems (like narcissism and fragile self-esteem) onto you, she says. Unfortunately, in an office environment, it’s virtually impossible to simply avoid these individuals.
That’s why it’s important to learn how to effectively deal with your difficult coworkers, so that you get the credit you deserve and don’t dread your 9-to-5. Here’s how to come out ahead:
1. Divide work equally
Sure, it’s important for everyone to do his or her fair share — but some control-freak coworkers trying to appear to be “the best” take on too much. Insist on contributing where your skills best fit, and don’t forget to praise your competitive counterpart. You might have to set frustrations aside to do it, but it could be that a little acknowledgment is what they’re looking for to feel more secure, Greenberg says.
2. Protect your ideas
For some people, the quest to be the best becomes an obsession. If you’re concerned about a colleague hijacking your ideas and presenting them as original thoughts, be smart (though not too paranoid) about keeping your ideas safe. Password-protect your computer and keep detailed records of your contributions to show your bosses if the need arises, Greenberg suggests. If someone claims your work as theirs, you can either confront them to sort it out or discuss the issue with a boss or HR.
3. Find ways to cooperate
Though it might feel like certain colleagues are committed to working against you, finding common ground can be key to keeping the peace in your cubicles. Play to others’ strengths, Greenberg says, and focus on ways you can work alongside to achieve together instead of butting heads. Remember, fundamentally you’re on the same side — and it’s OK to remind your coworker that’s the case when the going gets tough.
4. Work around their hang-ups
This one’s easier said than done, but it’s important. If you get too focused on changing others’ behaviours, it could exacerbate the problem. Don’t avoid discussing issues if they arise, but be sensitive to the fact that your coworkers’ issues are likely a reflection of their insecurities, Greenberg says. Practice your patience and be flexible. Trying to change a person could trigger defensiveness, worsening the situation for everyone involved.
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