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Seasoned with Sage
“Really, It’s Not Personal!”

When you’re having a conflict with a co-worker, you may consider the advice a mentor once passed on to me: What might feel personal is not personal at all.

Think of it. When you’re crabby or stand-offish at work, it’s usually because you’re under a lot of stress. You’re tired. Work is demanding. Your schedule is overflowing. There’s been a death in the family. Your kids are rebelling. Or maybe you’ve had a blow-up with your spouse.

How you react to your co-workers often has very little to do with them—and everything to do with you.

When you are dealing with a difficult co-worker, and your initial instinct is to retaliate or reflect the negativity, extend a little empathy. Stand back and think, “What else is going on with him/her? Am I taking this too personally?”  You may even consider approaching your co-worker and kindly inquiring if there is anything you can do to help him/her out, because you’ve noticed they’re having a bad day.

That being said, if the conflict continues—if his/her attitude becomes chronic—and you find you dread work or are constantly maneuvering to be scheduled when he/she is not on the schedule, then you have a problem you need to address.

One of the things I kid people about is “If you’ve felt it – solve it.”  You’ve talked about it a lot at home and with other co-workers, but have you taken it to the next step? It won’t get fixed if I talk to my husband about it every day instead of talking to you.

Once you realize that, ask the person with whom you are in conflict for feedback. Ask them, “How am I contributing to the problem?”  That’s one of my favorite questions in the whole world.  And it’s a scary question to ask. You might be surprised that you are being the difficult person in the relationship. But by being vulnerable and open to critique, you’ll show your co-worker respect.

And we all know that showing respect is the first step to receiving respect.

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