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Can’t we all just get along?

Jane Boucher

The future of America’s companies will require that workers no longer be islands unto themselves, but functioning units pulling together for greater productivity and a sweeter bottom line. Even if you are not technically part of a group of people working on a specific project together, you may be looking for the togetherness that comes from sharing a common interest success on the job.

When you make it your goal to work successfully as a team member, you are developing a foundation for success in even the most unstable co-worker relationship. It takes time and a willingness to apply new thinking to an old problem. That new thinking begins with a list of things you can do to develop a team relationship with the co-worker you are struggling to like.

Communicate

Or rather: communicate, communicate, communicate! You can turn around a negative relationship with a co-worker by communicating. In fact, it is the umbrella for everything that happens as you seek to establish a more positive relationship with your colleague. Be consistent and clear. If you have a co-worker who seems to misinterpret constantly what you are telling him or her about what you need, examine your conversations. Are you being clear? Are you being direct? Are you listening to their questions and are they answering yours? Do you make others work to understand you? Keep your communication simple and to the point.

Listen

This is the other side of the communication coin. Listening means you retain the information, consider it useful and learn about your co-worker. When you listen to your colleague, do you appear to be paying attention? What does your body language say about your listening skills? Do you keep eye contact, stop what you are doing and give your full attention? Make sure your co-worker knows you are listening by being animated, using eye-contact and, just to be sure, ask a question or repeat what you have been told so they know you have heard them. When your co-worker feels heard, he will respond to you in kind.

Try a little respect

Ask yourself, “Would my co-worker say he gets no respect from me?” This is not a question of whether he deserves your respect. You should treat your colleague as a human being, deserving of your respect. This can go a long way toward improving your attitude about your co-worker.

Examine your contribution to negative relationships

Examine your own reaction to your co-workers. Are you creating conflict that doesn’t exist except in your own mind? Are you reacting defensively to a co-worker’s unthinking comment and letting it fester? The key to making a difference in your relationship with your co-workers is simply to talk with them and let them explain their position. Clear your mind of preconceived notions. Consider this: Some of what you perceive about difficult people in your job could be that your co-worker simply has a different personality than you.

Give up the need

for control

Most people who are struggling with a difficult co-worker want to do something to “fix” that person to change him or her into what you think they should be. To put it bluntly, forget it! The only person who can change in a co-worker crisis is you. You cannot expect to control your colleague’s behavior without causing further conflict and tension for both of you.

Once you decide to change yourself and let go of your attempts to control your co-worker, be casual in your approach to relationship building.

Any sudden change in your behavior may breed suspicion. Your co-worker may begin to wonder, “Now what is she after?” You don’t want that response. In an already difficult relationship, the other person may be naturally suspicious of you anyway. Take it slowly and do not make demands. Just let the person know that you really want to work out the relationship. The benefit will be success to both of you.

Jane Boucher is an author and pro-fessional speaker with offices in Reno

and Ohio. Reach her at 853-0226 or janeboucher@mail.com.