Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Answering Reader Mail: How Do I Navigate Terrible Co-Workers Trying To Undermine Me?

"In the past I worked with someone trying to undermine my work and efforts. At first I thought they were trying to be helpful, but overtime it became very clear their intentions were not sincere. When one FIRST enters a new role, how do you stay positive, eager to learn, and NOT even allow this to become an initial issue?"

Sorry to hear about the difficult work situation. I hear about it all too often. Nonetheless, it is NOT fun when it is happening and very disappointing. It seems so unfair. Your question on how to stay positive, eager, and not allow this to be an initial issue is a good question. It seems you have enough self awareness and perhaps already read books about professional growth, etc. While it is in your power to stay positive and eager, I'm not sure how much control you have over it not ever happening again or it not becoming an initial issue. It really is disheartening to be put into situations as such and the only remedy is to learn how to control your reactions, thoughts, behaviors so your productivity, peace of mind, and sanity are not jeopardized. At the heart of it, you can't control other people. You can perhaps engage less with them and learn to understand why they act the way they do (on your own through reading, without consulting them). Their efforts to undermine you could be for a variety of reasons - boredom, they feel threatened, you're their scapegoat, low self esteem, insecurity, gunning for a promotion, inter office politics, a pay raise at stake, etc. My advice to you is to keep your head down, do your work well, be nice to everyone while observing who can help you fulfill your goals at work, get to know your boss really well, get to know your boss' boss really well. It's good to get to know people at work, but they don't have to be your best friends there or outside of work. Also take the time to nurture those below you and help them out. One thing I would caution you against doing is getting other people involved. Although the situations are counterproductive to a great work environment and don't make a lot of business sense, unfortunately, being a mean person at work is not illegal. It's true that terrible people get to keep their jobs because someone higher up likes them. Most people would rather work with someone semi competent that they like than someone stellar that they like less. I think this is an issue we all come across and it's a long learning process. Understanding human behavior, forgiveness, and concentrating on your life goals are the foundation to getting through tough times and scenarios. The better you become at reading people, understanding what makes them tick, how to give them what they want (attention, praise, validation, results, commiseration), and to navigate the business world gracefully, the easier it becomes. I would suggest reading books by Keith Ferrazzi, Covey, and Robert Sutton. I'm glad you have such an open mind and are eager to learn. That's a great first step! Keep me posted on everything and hopefully I can help.

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