Kantor column: Like relatives, you can't choose your co-workers

Columnist Jan Kantor

Photo by LEXEY SWALL

Columnist Jan Kantor

— Just like our relatives, we usually have no choice in the matter when it comes to choosing our co-workers. On the job you are thrown together daily with people you must work with.

Of course being the considerate human being that you are, you want to get along well with all your co-workers. You know that as a part of a team the more everyone works together helping each other, the more your company experiences greater productivity and harmony.

Unfortunately, sometimes there are differences of opinions or personality problems among co-workers. Hopefully the problems are small, like one employee talks too loudly on the phone. However, many times it is a problem of larger proportion. When an associate constantly criticizes or brings a negative attitude with them it is a much bigger problem.

There are many ways to handle each situation, however most people tend to do one of two things. 1. Complain about it to someone else. 2. Ignore the problem.

Complaining to someone else may make you feel better by getting it “off your chest,” but it does nothing to resolve the problem. By ignoring the problem people hope the problem will go away. And many times because it has been ignored it actually does go away. Unfortunately this usually only holds true for small problems.

When a problem doesn’t go away and even escalates, you must do something. The best way to resolve differences is by face-to-face discussion. I am not talking about fisticuffs, however much you might like to. Your goal is not to compound the problem by making this abusive or a spectator sport. Try using some of the following methods to make your talk level-headed and effective:

■ Find a time and place where you can be alone and won’t be interrupted. Perhaps a walk outside or an empty conference room. Maybe even take the co-worker out to lunch.

■ Start off on a positive note. Let them know the things you value about them. Keep in mind that you aren’t there to attack them, but to solve a problem.

■ Be professional. Be straightforward and confident and get right to the point. Tell them what you perceive the problem to be. You must be kind but firm. Keep your anger in check. Your anger will only complicate the problem not help solve it.

■ Be specific. Tell them exactly what is bothering you. If their loudness is offensive, explain how it gives you headaches. If they are critical of you give them several specific examples.

■ Listen. After your feedback be sure to listen. Open yourself up to hear their point of view. They may not even be aware there was a problem and be appreciative of your talking to them. Perhaps they have been going through problems of their own and didn’t realize they were taking it out on you. Just don’t be judgmental until you know all the facts.

■ Discuss solutions. Instead of blaming, accusing, or threatening, work together on a solution. Try and find changes that will satisfy both of you.

■ Encourage. Once changes are seen, reinforce them by positively encouraging your co-worker. Be appreciative.

Communication among co-workers is essential. You cannot spend a major portion of your life with your co-workers in constant aggravation. Problems that undermine employee morale hurts the company as well as the staff.

It is up to each employee to work in harmony with each other. When problems arise you need to be equipped to effectively deal with them. With open communication and listening skills, you will be well prepared.

Jan Kantor offers workplace solutions for issues and problems. Visit jankantor.com and click on “Workplace Solutions for You” on the right side of the home page. Then ask your question.

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