I’ll admit that I did learn some key strategies over the years to mitigate the problem, which I will offer for those of you who may be new to the workplace, or may be convinced that only the guilty should have to change. I assure you that these are important lessons that will enhance your career, as well as improve your odds of success with customers, partners, and even your family.
Here are my key recommendations for actions on your part to interact more effectively with others in the workplace whose style may be annoying to you, frustrating to both, or even intentionally obnoxious to peers:
Clearly define boundary lines and expectations early. Obnoxious team members may by force of habit ignore your earned expertise or team leadership position. Make it clear that negative or inappropriate language is not tolerated in business discussions. Clarify communication conventions in a normal tone of voice and honor your own boundaries.
I have found that every work relationship needs commonly understood boundaries, just like family and personal relationships. The boundaries in business may start with work scope limitations, but certainly must include emotional and physical constraints as well.
Share your time constraints early in every discussion. Don’t let frustrating team members monopolize your time or jeopardize other commitments. Move on to other activities in a timely fashion, with a calm and courteous exit. If you are in charge of a meeting, make sure all members are aware of and live up to the same participation rules.
In addition, I recommend speed mentoring for those of you that love to help others resolve their challenges, rather than jumping in to do the job for them, jeopardizing your own ability to meet personal commitments, or raise your stress level to unhealthy highs.
Adjust your interaction style to be accommodating. Over time, you can adjust your interaction style to make the relationship work better for both of you. For example, some people insist on giving you all the details before a conclusion or request for help, while you expect the end result first, to give the details a better context. Don’t interrupt.
Above all, don’t be confrontational or combative. Think about how to engage your colleague in problem-solving, which is inherently collaborative instead of combative. Never make the interaction about who’s right and who’s wrong, and keep it positive.
Keep interactions short with obnoxious coworkers. Plan your discussions to occur immediately before a scheduled meeting, or other planned exit. Keep yourself calm and positive, while avoiding contentious topics. Join in discussions with other team members or managers present. Check your body language to avoid giving negative messages.
Focus team members on results, rather than activities. Incent peers and every team member to produce results, and provide feedback and rewards based on results rather than work hours or activities. Do not tolerate complaints, excuses tied to others, or listen to unrequested negative assessments on the work habits or business role of others.
Don’t broadcast your stress and frustration to peers. Be aware that an obvious poor relationship with one team member may bias others against you. Always make sure your own behavior is never seen as annoying, both in terms of what you say, and the body language you exhibit. The best leaders are praised for their handling of difficult situations.
Strive to always treat every team member consistently. Ask a trusted coach or mentor for feedback to make sure that you are not part of the problem with difficult team members. Having productive and trusted relationships requires that you are able to adapt your approach as required, rather than expect everyone to adapt to your style.
With these tactics, I predict you will be pleasantly surprised by the level of cooperation and productivity you can get from other team members and managers, even ones that previously were secretly not fully supportive of your efforts. In addition, you will have more time, energy, and support for your own work initiatives, resulting in a win-win for all parties involved.
*** First published on Inc.com on 2/10/2023 ***