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7 Things You Haven’t Tried To Deal With That One Co-Worker You Dislike

7 Things You Haven’t Tried To Deal With That One Co-Worker You Dislike

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    Work is stressful. All day you deal with deadlines, demands, and distractions. Work is easier and happier when you have pleasant people around you who are there to help you and work with you. That doesn’t always happen though. Often there is that one person who is on a mission to make your life miserable.

    If you have a co-worker like this, you know how they can suck every ounce of happiness out of your life. It’s a ripple effect that seeps into other aspects of your life: whomever you go home to, your friends, your family, even the lady standing behind you in the grocery store checkout lane. It’s pure emotional torture.

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    It seems like I’ve had a difficult co-worker at every job I’ve had. I was beginning to wonder if there was some mystical message that the Universe was trying to teach me. I thought I was easy-going, upbeat, fun-loving, and full of personality. So why didn’t these irritating antagonists appreciate me? Why were these people haunting me?

    The last one was the worst. I was going through a divorce and had just become a single parent. I had recently changed career paths venturing into foreign territory. I was really scared. My new co-worker (who was also my manager) seemed so nice when she interviewed me for the job. She must have liked me because I did get the job. But then, it happened. Like a snake shedding its skin, each day as we sat there, desks almost touching each other, she became scarier as layers of her “niceness” faded, and her fangs began to show.

    Every day was another attack at my incompetence. For months, this continued until I changed my thinking. One day I realized this was all about me. This miserable co-worker was testing my character strength. I had to step back from the situation and take an inventory. I asked myself, “How much can I handle? Is this about them or me? Am I looking in the mirror? Do I see something I don’t like about myself in them? Am I jealous of something they have, like a higher position, a better relationship with the boss, or freedom to do whatever they want? That’s when I learned that this impossible, nasty, bully was there to teach me about myself.

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    Here is what I discovered.

    1. Compassion

    Everyone is carrying their own silent sack of troubles with them every day. Everybody worries, and everybody has problems. When you keep this in proper perspective, you realize your co-worker’s nasty comments have nothing to do with you at all.

    2.  Kindness

    Yes, it’s totally phony at first, but after a while, it feels great. Shower them with kindness. It’s amazing how you can turn grumpy people around when you do. You become the conqueror of the situation. You can mold people by the way you interact with them. Every morning, I went to the coffee shop in our building. The woman who ran the shop was grumpy, unpleasant, and never smiled. Her nastiness was contagious. When I returned to my office, I realized I was in a bad mood. I made a decision to stop letting her negativity ruin my morning. From then on, I went to the coffee shop with a wide smile on my face and greeted her with an overly dramatic, “Good morning! How are you today?” The change didn’t occur immediately, but slowly, day after day, her frown softened and she smiled. All she needed was a little kindness. Most people probably responded to her negativity in kind, but if you don’t get hooked into it, you will feel better and so will the other person.

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    3. Wisdom

    Find your inner strength. You might have to search deep inside yourself, but you’re stronger than you realize. Instead of giving in to your impulsive reactions without thinking, try not reacting. Often we make situations worse than they are. Give your reaction time to settle. Time changes your perspective, if you let it.  Be smarter. Rise above the conflict. Slow down.

    4. Reflection

    Often the traits that irritate us the most in others are the traits we don’t like in ourselves. Are you brave enough to ask yourself, “Am I looking in the mirror?” At first, you won’t recognize yourself, but if you can step back and look at what happened, you might recognize yourself. It’s difficult to admit, but it’s true.

    5. Dignity

    Never let another person’s bad behavior bring out your (even) worse behavior. Once the negativity of others triggers us, we can become as monstrous as they are. Maintain your dignity when others lose theirs.

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    6. Communicate

    If you can find your courage and your strength – go for coffee and talk it out. Simply express your desire to improve your relationship. Ask for advice. Be humble, not egotistic. I once had a co-worker who gave me a dirty look whenever I walked by her desk. It didn’t take long before I was hooked and started giving her the same looks she gave me. For months, we’d walk by each other and roll our eyes. Until, one day, I asked another girl I worked with if she knew why I was getting dirty looks. Her answer surprised me: “She thinks that you don’t like her.” I had no reason to dislike her. I had no negative feelings for her (until those looks started). I went over to her, told her that I’d like to move forward and be friendly again. It worked.

    7. Know when to walk away.

    Abuse is never acceptable. Just like any bad relationship, you have to know when it’s time to walk away with dignity. You might have to quit. If the situation is absolutely unbearable or abusive, it will probably affect your emotional and physical health. Find another job, start that consulting business you’ve been dreaming about, or follow your bliss. This unlikable co-worker might be a blessing in disguise. They might be the messenger forcing you to make the change you’ve been dreaming about. Go for it. Seize the day!

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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