One of the hardest things to learn to deal with in any work environment can be our coworkers. An army of psychology experts with the best psychology degrees may not be enough to help us understand the stew of neurosis that a workplace can breed.Toxic relationships at work can mean the difference between a great workday and a daily grind where we dread every moment anticipating a negative encounter with one of these people. The New Year always brings with it a desire for change and a desire to start things off on the right foot, and perhaps finding a way to better improve those relationships so we can be happier. While we can choose our friends, we cannot choose our coworkers.
Here are some ways to avoid those frustrating and awkward coworker situations without hurting your reputation.
Keep Things in Perspective
In the workplace there is always going to be a degree of social interaction in order to get things done, and tension and stress are expected in any workday. But it’s important to remember that you don’t have to be friends with your coworkers. Emotional distance can mean the difference between having a clean professional relationship with a coworker and becoming an unwitting participant in someone else’s drama.
Keeping things in perspective means that the workplace is not the environment to address these problems. You don’t want to be a part of the toxic equation. Anything that you can do to separate yourself by maintaining a strict professionalism will do wonders to defuse emotionally needy people and help them maintain their own boundaries.
Be Accepting of Your Coworkers
Learning to accept people for their flaws and imperfections is one of the hardest things that we can do as human beings. It is natural for us to want to point out differences and separate ourselves from those who are not like us. Many of the workplace dramas that play out revolve around this attitude.
The office gossip can make embarrassing slips that damage one’s reputation. That person who is always late and always leaves early impacts productivity and breeds resentment. That betrayer who never takes responsibility for their own actions is always looking to build a team to deflect attention away from himself.
You cannot change any of these people. The power you have in the workplace is to recognize what your own role is and abide by it. Use the chain of command in the workplace to deal with the problems these people create and avoid becoming an accomplice. Be proactive and positive within what you do and how you interact with people, but know that your actions only reflect on yourself and your responsibilities at work.
Resolve Not to Be Affected by “Impostor Syndrome”
This coming year might be the first year of your new job or increased responsibilities. People in these new positions often feel like they may not be qualified enough to handle their tasks. The sense that you don’t fully know what you’re doing and that you have somehow fooled other people into believing that you’re more talented and competent than you really are can be called Imposter Syndrome.
Feeling that all your actions are under scrutiny and that nothing you do is good enough can be enough to bring your own contribution to a toxic work relationship. Understand that this stems from feelings of insecurity and anxiety. Although they are perfectly natural feelings to experience, it’s important that you do not let them get the upper hand. Recognize them and let them pass on. Confer with your supervisor if need be, but do not let it impact your feelings of personal worth and self-confidence.
The biggest hurdle in overcoming toxic work relationships is recognizing that most peoples negative problems stem from an emotional need. Whether it’s the office gossip, the cynic, the blamer, or even workplace bullies, insecurity and emotional neediness are all bound up in a kind of attention deprivation. You do not get paid to participate in coworkers’ problems, even when it is disguised under the banner of “teamwork.” Know your place, maintain emotional boundaries, be confident in your role, and that coworker irritation won’t be able to touch you.
About the Author: Amy Nielson is an avid blogger. You can follow her on Twitter at @NielsonAmy.