Archive | Office Atmosphere RSS feed for this section

Dealing With Office Drama: The Office Friend Conundrum

9 Oct

If you work in an office with anyone other than yourself you are likely to experience some sort of office drama at one point or another. Maybe you told a co-worker that you trusted that you went on a date only to find out that she went and blabbed your news to everyone else or maybe you say something about one co-worker that somehow gets back to that co-worker and discover that they are upset with you. Whatever it is, we all know that drama isn’t fun, especially when it’s at the office – the very place that you spend more time than you do in your own house.

In my office I have two young women that I consider to be pretty good friends. We enjoy Friday lunches together, keep each other updated on one another’s lives, and sometimes plan out-of-office get-togethers where we sip on drinks and discuss things other than work. I would say that I feel pretty comfortable telling these women a lot of things, and sometimes I find that it is hard to determine where a line exists and if there even is one.

So I will give you an example of some recent drama that I dealt with at the office. One of my office friends (Office Friend A) had an upcoming wedding and me and the other office friend (Office Friend B) were planning on attending. About a week before the wedding, Office Friend B came up and told me that she was not able to attend the reception. A few days later I was talking to Office Friend A and simply asked if she was upset or disappointed that Office Friend B gave last-minute notice that she was not attending the reception (likely after the bill for her plate had already been paid). Office Friend A brushed it off and said no, she didn’t care. I told her I was glad she wasn’t bothered and relayed a story of when my husband and I got married and how disappointed I was when people cancelled at the last-minute. Fast forward an hour when Office Friend B comes into the office and breezes past my door at lightening speed (when she usually spends the time to come in and say hello). When I tried to say hi to Office Friend B later that day I could tell she was upset with me. She is one of those people who is always happy and chipper, so when she gave me a snarly look I knew she was upset.

It was instantaneously obvious to me that Office Friend A had said something to Office Friend B about my question. I became immediate anxious and uncomfortable, so I spoke to Office Friend A to ask if she was upset with me. Come to find out she was, and yes she had said something to Office Friend B. While I feel that I did nothing wrong (yes I offended them, but it wasn’t an intention offense), I hated being in the midst of office drama and having to be around these two women who were upset with me. While I could have held my head up high sure that I did nothing wrong, I decided to suck up my pride and send both of them apology emails. In the end the drama was resolved and everything was ok.

So, what did that little fiasco teach me? First it taught me that while these girls are my friends and while I confide in them with regard to personal matters, I can’t get too personal at work. It also taught me that no matter how close you think you are to someone, drama is always possible, especially at work.

If you find yourself in a similar situation or in a completely different situation involving drama and work, here are some tips:

  • If you think that you did something to offend someone, think about apologizing and taking the blame even if you feel that you did nothing wrong. Apologies go a long way and dealing with upset co-workers isn’t worth your pride.
  • If you feel that someone at your work is gossiping about you and saying bad things that could hurt your career or reputation with higher-ups, then say something to your boss. This may be an uncomfortable conversation, but it is important that your boss know what is going on so they are prepared when someone says something negative about you.
  • If you and another co-worker just can’t seem to get alone, avoid that co-worker, and when you can’t avoid them just simply ignore them. I know plenty of people who have co-workers they despise and they simply get through the day by being as professional as possible while ignoring them and removing themselves from situations involving that person.
  • If you have to work closely with someone who has caused drama in your office, tread lightly. Don’t engage in office gossip and NEVER say anything about anyone that you don’t want to get back to them. These people always seem so sincere and interested in your opinion, but they won’t think twice about throwing you under the bus to spread a little office gossip.

All in all I have come to learn that while you can have good work friends, you can’t be as candid and open with them as you can your real friends.

Have you guys dealt with office drama? What did you do to make the situation better?

Getting Along With A Mean Co-Worker

11 Jul

Have you ever had the pleasurable experience of working with someone who is mean, rude, or just angry at the world? While I have not (thankfully) had to personally deal with this, I know a lot of people out there get stuck in situations where they are required to work closely with someone who is just plain mean. Sure, we all have bad days or get into cranky moods, but being mean every single day is a talent that takes a major effort.

I recently started reading Jennifer Weiner’s first book Good In Bed. I am not very far along into it, but from the beginning the main character Cannie discusses her experiences in working with a mean, cranky and old Gabby. According to Cannie, Gabby is just awful to work with and sometimes even makes her cry.

Having to deal with the pressure of deadlines, pleasing bosses, and making sure that we get things right causes enough stress. Adding a mean or unruly co-worker on top of that can simply drive you crazy. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with a co-worker from hell – here are some tips.

Tip No. 1: Expect The Co-Worker From Hell To Cause You Hell

They say that when you prepare yourself for the worst you are more prepared when the worst actually happens. While always looking at things negatively is not a good thing to do (usually), in the case of a mean co-worker I think it is ok to just assume and expect that she/he will be mean/rude/crass/annoying. If you expect this you are less likely to take it personally or get upset by it.

Tip No. 2: Don’t Retaliate

Don’t fight fire with fire. If your co-worker says something rude or yells or does anything else that gets under your skin, don’t respond. Usually when people behave this way it is because they want some sort of reaction. When I am in a really bad mood and pick a fight with my husband I want him to lash out and say something mean so I have a reason to raise my voice and release my angry energy. While sometimes he does lash out (maybe because he is cranky too or because he is sick of my sh**) a lot of times he just rolls his eyes and laughs (which makes me mad too). The point is that if you give them what they are looking for they will continue to be rude and mean to you. If you just say “ok” and roll your eyes they will get annoyed and walk away and go pick on someone else.

Tip No. 3: Be Nice

Ok, yes, I know the last thing you want is to be nice to the grouchy co-worker, but maybe they are mean and grumpy because they are really looking for help or for a friend. Sometimes people push others away because they are scared of being rejected, so they think that if they push others away it was on their terms. If you offer them help or ask them out to lunch despite their nasty attitude they may relent and decide to give you a break. Who knows, maybe you will become the best of friends (probably not).

Just remember that people have different things going on in their lives and there may be more to their story. If you care to fix the situation (or try to fix it) maybe you should try to get to know them.

Tip No. 4: Tell HR or Your Boss

If your nasty co-worker makes it nearly impossible for you to get your work done or go through the day without crying then maybe it is time for some third-party intervention. If you have an HR person in your office then go to them – that’s what they are there for (if not, tell your boss). You can tell  HR  how the co-worker treats you and how it is affecting your work. HR should talk to the individual and make a note in your file so that if the behavior continues it is on record (and maybe they can terminate them).

WARNING: I would really think about reporting the mean person before you actually go through with it. I have worked closely with HR personnel before and know that reporting such things causes conflicts in the office. While HR is there to deal with office problems that interfere with your work, remember that rumors circulate and people may find out what happened. You have to decide whether such a thing would be beneficial to your work issues or whether it would cause more problems. Also consider how close HR is with the individual causing you stress – the closer they are, maybe the less likely they are to actually say something to your co-worker.

Another option is to go to HR, tell them your issue, and suggest a mediation between you and your co-worker.  This may help to air out the dirty laundry and make things right between the two of you. Again, think about this before you do it. Do you think talking with a mediator will help your issue with your co-worker? Will this make you feel better about going to work with this person? How do you think the person will respond to the mediation attempt (some people get really defensive when confronted)?

Tip No. 5; If All Else Fails, MOVE ON

If you have tried everything in your power to make things right between you and your nasty co-worker and nothing has worked then I think it is time to move on. There is only so much you can do to try to change other people and if you continue to try to make things better you may cause yourself more stress than necessary.

If working with this person is completely impossible and nothing else has worked think about getting another job. Yes, I know this is extreme, but being unhappy at work isn’t work the money (at least I don’t think so). Also, if this person makes your work environment completely unlivable think about contacting the EEOC and making a Hostile Work Environment claim.

Have you ever had to deal with a nasty co-worker? What did you do?

Dealing With Difficult Co-Workers

3 Apr

We have all dealt with them – the chatterbox, the gossiper, the complainer, and the take-credit-for-things-I-didn’t-do person. Of course when you work in a small environment with a bunch of different people there will be a mixture of personalities. Some personalities you will be able to tolerate or even enjoy, but others will drive you absolutely crazy. Unlike other aspects of life where you can just ignore those people you don’t get along with, the workplace is completely different. Not only will you be called upon to possibly work with people you don’t particularly like, but you may rely upon them to help you or make your work life easier. Here are the four types of personalities I have seen at work, and advice on how to deal with them.

The Chatterbox

There is no way around it, this person loves to talk. It could be about the weather, their weekend, or their personal love problems. No matter the topic of conversation they always seem to be there, ready and willing to add to the it. At one of my previous jobs there was this young lady who I always seemed to get stuck in the break room with. She just loved to talk. Oftentimes I would find myself stuck in a fifteen minute conversation with her, all the while thinking, when can I leave? It wasn’t that I didn’t like the girl, it’s just that at work sometimes I get in a mood where all I want to do is focus and not chat. This woman became especially annoying when she began discussing her inability to conceive, when she was having her period, and how her and her husband had fought the night before. Trust me when I say that your co-workers really could care less about your personal problems.

So, what can you do to get out of these long and uncomfortable conversations? Rather than insulting your co-worker and telling her that you want nothing to do with her, tell her that you are swamped and don’t have time to chat, tell her that you have a hard time concentrating at work when you have lengthy conversations, and if you really do enjoy her company, suggest that the two of you grab lunch once a week. These things may send the chatterbox the hint that you don’t enjoy the long chats at work.

The Gossiper

This person, like the chatterbox, enjoys to talk, but this person usually loves to talk about other people. No matter the time of day, this person always seems to have the latest scoop on everyone and the latest dirt. While it may be interesting to get in on the workplace gossip, you do have to assume that sometimes you may be the person the gossiper is talking about to others. Also, you have to remember that the gossip can be both true and untrue. A lot of times the people who enjoy to gossip about others do so to make themselves feel better. As a result, a lot of what these people say is made up and exaggerated. So, if you enjoy listening to the gossiper, make sure you are cynical about what she is saying. While listening is ok, taking part in the gossip is never ok, especially with this person. Remember, this person loves to talk and stretch the truth. The last thing you need is for her to tell others something you told her in confidence and fabricate the story. If this person comes to you with “gossip” and expects something in return, just try to change the subject. If that doesn’t work simply tell that person that you don’t have any news and don’t like to talk about people behind their backs. That should annoy the gossiper enough to leave you alone.

The Complainer

Do you have that one person at work that always seems down in the dumps or is complaining about her boss, work assignment, or just life in general? There always seems to be at least one of these in every work environment. These people do nothing beneficial for the workplace and actually encourage negative thoughts and energy. While some people may complain and ask for your advice, the Complainer is not looking for your advice. They just want to vent and want to make others feel negative like they do. If you find that this person comes to you quite often to vent or complain, try not to encourage the behavior by changing the subject or by not responding to what they are saying. Eventually they will get the hint that you want nothing to do with their negativity.

The Take-Credit-For-Things-I-Don’t-Do Person

Just like the complainer, almost every workplace has a person who takes credit for projects or work they have not completed on their own. A lot of times this may be a more senior employee taking credit for the work of a junior employee, which makes the issue a lot more complicated. When this person works with other people on a project they usually accept all of the praise and don’t admit that they received help from other people. In a competitive work environment where you are competing for a position, this can be extremely detrimental. This person is the very reason most people don’t enjoy doing “team” type activities or having to rely upon other people to perform their job.

The other day I went to a hearing with my boss on a case I wrote the brief for. I heard counsel for one of the other defendants tell my boss that the brief was great. Now, he could have stood there and took credit without mentioning my name because he is the senior partner and I am a low-level associate. But, being the good person that he is, he told counsel that I wrote the brief. I was surprised that he did that, but then thankful all at the same time.

If you find yourself working hard with an individual who never lets others know that you helped, make sure you let people know. This will not make you look bad, it will make the credit grabber look bad. Also, refuse to help this person the next time they need something. Maybe this will send them a message that they need to be thankful for the help they receive.

Remember that working with different personalities is hard, but it is possible if you learn how to deal with them. If you find that one of these types of people really irritates you or takes your mind off of work, say something in the nicest way that you can. Remember, at the end of the day your professional growth and work performance are the most important thing. Obviously refrain from yelling at the annoying co-worker, but do what you need to do to make sure that you can work productively and efficiently.

Have you ever dealt with an annoying co-worker?

7 Things Your Co-Workers Don’t Want To Hear About

27 Feb

No matter what type of office environment you have at your current job, i.e. young and energetic, reserved, all-business-no-talk, or somewhere in between, everyone chats with their fellow co-workers from time to time. Heck, we spend more time with these people then we do with our own families, right? Sometimes I find myself becoming quite comfortable with my co-workers and talking about things that are far beyond the workplace. I know that sometimes these talks can lead to workplace drama and the spreading of rumors, that is why I tend to choose my words carefully around my colleagues. Of course we all know that politics, religion, sex, and anything in between is completely off-limits when it comes to subject matters you shouldn’t be discussing with your co-workers, but have you ever wondered what other things you shouldn’t be discussing with your co-workers? Here are 7 things I think you should leave out of your cubicle chats:

1.  Problems Conceiving or Other Intimate Baby Problems.

At one of my old jobs there was this young woman, recently married, who was trying to have a baby with her husband. She was always one of those people who just looked down in the dumps. So, naturally, you would ask her if everything was ok. That is the polite thing to do, right? Wrong. These how-are-you-doing questions always lead to her divulging her entire medical history and her inability to conceive. Sure, such a topic is ok to discuss with those whom you are REALLY close to, but not with everyone at the office. I found myself trying to avoid being alone with this woman for fear of being sucked into a sad conversation about her cervix, the shots she was taking, and her period. We all know and understand that being unable to conceive is hard on someone and can cause a lot of stress in their lives, but please, please, please don’t share it with everyone you know!

2.  Weekend Recap.

The one question everyone asks each other on Monday mornings is, “How was your weekend?” The normal response would be to tell them that you weekend was great or relaxing or too short. The wrong response is to go into details about how you partied until the wee hours of the night, woke up in someone else’s bed, and puked your brains out the following morning. Remember that rumors around the office spread fast, so be careful what you put out there. The last thing you want is for your boss to hear that story. Despite the fact that these escapades happened on the weekend when you were not representing your employer, your employer may assume that you act that way out of work all of the time. Attracting negative attention to yourself is never good, so avoid the partying and sex related stories.

3.  Wedding Planning.

Sure, all of your co-workers are excited that you are recently engaged and probably can’t wait to be invited and attend your wedding, but this doesn’t mean that they want to hear about every single detail of your wedding planning. When someone asks, “How’s the wedding planning coming along?” they really don’t want you to go into details about the cocktail napkins you ordered with your wedding date on them. Instead, they want a short conversation where you tell them that the planning is going well. Sure, if you are particularly close with some of your co-workers it may be ok to go into more detail, but be careful who you make listen to your wedding planning stories.

4.  Family Drama. 

Everyone on earth has had or is currently experiencing some sort of family drama. Whether it is a divorce, a child getting in trouble, someone getting hurt, or something really juicy, no one wants to hear about it. Everyone has their own family issues and the last thing they want is to hear someone griping about their family issues everyday at work. The last thing you want is for your boss to think that your mind isn’t on your work.

The same girl who always talked about her inability to conceive always came to work and told us about her marital problems. The only thing this did was lead to gossip among the co-workers discussing whether we believed her husband was abusive or not. At the end of the day we had no idea whether he was the nasty person she was portraying him to be, but her stories definitely lead to some workplace gossip. In an effort to keep your family out of the gossip and to avoid people hating your significant other, keep your marital and relationship problems to yourself.

5. Salary and Raises.

Most of you should hopefully know that talking about your salary, raises, and bonuses with your co-workers is completely off-limits. But, just in case you didn’t know, I decided to add this to the list. A person’s salary, like a person’s religion, is an extremely personal matter. If you tell your co-worker that you got a $20,000 raise and he only got a $2,000 raise, how do you think that is going to make your co-worker feel? Worthless, stupid, and incapable. It is always best to keep salary conversations to yourself no matter what, even if you are good friends. No one wants to feel bad about their raises or salary. The only thing salary talks will lead to is workplace gossip and conversations about why Bobby doesn’t deserve the salary he gets.

6. Negative Views of Your Co-Workers.

When I go out to lunch with my co-workers we often end up talking about work and the people at work. While discussing matters that everyone knows about (like Mr. X’s wife having a baby the previous week) is ok, telling your co-workers that you hate or highly dislike another co-worker is NEVER appropriate. This applies to those whom you consider good friends. We would all like to think that when we tell our “friends” at work certain things about other co-workers that it would stay between the two of you, but this rarely ever happens. Rumors always go around and someone always tells someone else what you said badly about your co-worker. It is best to keep these thoughts to yourself in order to avoid workplace drama and unnecessarily hurt feelings.

7. Complaining About Your Job or Boss.

Everyone has had a bad day or week at work, but this doesn’t give you a free pass to complain about your job or your mean boss to other co-workers. Too often I hear people complaining about how their boss is a jerk, is in a bad mood, or just plain sucks. Sure, you may be thinking those things, but in an effort to avoid looking like a constant complainer, keep those thoughts to yourself. My advice is to not say anything to another co-worker that you wouldn’t say to your boss’s face. You would certainly never want any of those negative comments to get back to your boss and then have to explain yourself, would you?

Socializing is oftentimes a part of going to work, and that is fine. Just remember that co-workers, whether or not they are your good friends, have their own interests in mind. So, rather than divulging every personal detail about yourself, keep the conversations fluffy and not too personal. Of course there are those of us that have really good work friends, or think that we do, but my advice is to make sure you know that these people are real friends before you discuss any of the above topics. At work it is always better to tread lightly.