Everyone can relate to having a job that no matter how great the work environment is, there’s always that one person who seems to ruin your day at the office. Maybe they’re rude or demanding. Some might be insulting. Perhaps they might be the type of person who enjoys stirring up some gossip with other employees. Either way, no matter the issue, you need to address it to avoid feeling miserable at your job.
If you’re feeling helpless or unsure of how to deal with the situation, fear not. Here’s how to approach a coworker when they rub you the wrong way.
Keeping Your Cool
It’s tempting to bite the head off of someone who has done you wrong, but remember, you’re still in a professional environment. If you don’t keep your cool, you’re bound to cause a scene and end up looking like the fool instead of that nasty Gary from accounting.
Before you approach a coworker, be sure you’ve given yourself enough time to breathe and think through the situation. Process your emotions so that if you choose to confront them, you’ll come off as level-headed and you are less likely to attack them.
They say sometimes it’s not about what you say but how you say it. Check your tone when you approach a coworker. Be sure to speak in a calm and slow manner. If you speak quickly or with passion, it could put your coworker in the position of being defensive. Don’t be shy, but be assertive with how you feel. Even if your coworker gets loud with you, being the calm one in the situation will make them seem crazy and you’ll come off as mature and cool as a cucumber.
Being calm, though, doesn’t mean coming off as a pushover. You still want to make your stance clear and concise. Don’t beat around the bush when it comes to your approach. Be direct and don’t hesitate. Having confidence in what you are saying will reflect in your tone and will be much more impactful on the person you are speaking with.
In addition to worrying about your tone, you also need to pay attention to your body language when you approach a coworker. Your facial expressions can trigger an emotional response. Be sure to remain neutral and avoid talking with your hands too much to the point of coming off as frustrated.
Avoid shaking a finger or a fist, and try not to cross your arms. You don’t want to be seen as unapproachable. You also want to communicate your emotions to your coworker without being seen as “violent” which is the last thing you want to give them when it comes to ammo.
Lastly, when it comes to your stance, don’t be so close as to make them uncomfortable. If your standing, be sure it doesn’t come off as if you are closing in on them into a corner. You don’t want them to feel attacked in a situation like this. If you’re sitting across from one another, keep your hands above the table. Body language is critical to any successful conversation you’re having with someone, especially if it’s a confrontational conversation.
Request A Meeting
Whenever you want to approach a coworker, it’s imperative that you consider the timing and the setting. Talking out your differences with someone while they’re helping a customer or a client isn’t going to make your relationship with them any better. You also don’t want to approach them if they’re in the middle of something important where they are blindsided in the middle of stress and high adrenaline.
If you want your interaction to be impactful, consider scheduling a time with them to meet. This way, there are no distractions, and both of you are able to make your points and state your cases in a healthy environment. Have the interaction in a private setting, but make sure it is still a professional setting. It could be over coffee in your office or in a conference room on the property. Try to avoid the break room or a common area so that others don’t interrupt the conversation.
Always document any type of interaction. It’s a professional courtesy. You want to make sure you’ve got something in writing to explain what you’ve done to rectify unpleasant situations when it comes to how you approach a coworker. Having evidence through emails and recorded notes can make it easier when you’re explaining to the coworker or even to an employer the gravity of a negative interaction.
If it’s an ongoing battle that you’ve been having with a coworker, having a document that lists each moment in detail is going to help when it comes to building a case against someone who is toxic in the work environment. It’s also a good way to protect yourself by having evidence on your part for how you’ve dealt with the conflict.
Talk To A Supervisor, NEVER Another Coworker
This is probably the greatest lesson I have learned when it comes to working with other people. Any time there is a situation wrapped in conflict, you always want to keep it between you and the coworker involved. If you need to get someone else in on it, take it to a supervisor, but never involve another coworker. It’s tempting to spill the tea and to vent things out with your work bestie, but doing this will only make the environment more toxic to work in.
Gossip makes everyone feel uncomfortable, and you don’t want a negative reputation for talking about others instead of dealing with things professionally. If you have tried to approach a coworker and nothing seems to be resolved between the two of you, it’s best to immediately go to a superior and inform them with your documentation of what you have done to try and resolve the issues. Make sure that you only do this after you have tried to approach the situation yourself.
Do you plan on implementing these tips the next time you decide to approach a coworker who has done you wrong? If so, let me know in a comment below!
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Scott Hill is a former middle school educator and current poet with multiple self-published collections. He has a degree in English Literature and Psychology from the University of Houston and resides nearby where he can be seen tending to plants at his job, snuggling with his dog on the sofa, or spending time with loved ones. He enjoys whiskey and wine nights and loves writing about other poets, personal life experiences, mental health, food, and sometimes Taylor Swift. Feel free to follow him on Instagram @scotthillpoetry!