Have you ever had a pitcher of ice water dumped on your head?
I have, and it’s not pleasant, although it does wake you up.
Kind of like an irritable co-worker. Have you ever worked with one?
They can make you tired first thing in the morning, suck the sweetness out of your coffee break and send you home with a bad taste in your mouth.
However, I’ve found some effective ways to deal with those co-workers who are as collegial as a cactus. Here they are:
Is he barking or talking? I used to walk to work past a house with a big, black dog in the yard who barked loudly at me all the time. It would have been intimidating, if he hadn’t been behind a fence. But somehow I realized he was just trying to talk to all the passers-by, and once I started greeting him with soothing tones, he was all wagging tail. Could this be the case with your co-worker?
Listen, but don’t engage. Chronic complainers feel they’re never heard, I think, and unfortunately they don’t get the connection between how they talk and why no one listens. So lend an ear, but don’t let that get confused with voicing agreement.
Know what sets her off. You don’t have to walk on eggshells, but be aware of what makes your co-worker freak and try not to go there. And get out of the way if someone else does.
Try to lighten the atmosphere. Maybe you can help your co-worker cheer up with a joke or two, but avoid seeming to make fun of him or her. As you try to help everybody put things in perspective, your goal is to be the voice of sanity, not a stand up comic.
Excuse yourself. If the talk turns nasty and you’d like to tell someone to take a hike, do it yourself, and step away from the sour grapes parade.
When in doubt, document. You never know with nasty people. Your problematic colleague could be coming after you next. You don’t have to be paranoid and start taping all your conversations, but find ways to establish a record of what you did or did not say, do or agree to. One of the classic techniques, which is helpful even when you’re not dealing with prickly people, is to send a follow-up e-mail confirming the details of conversations you have.
While there’s no guarantee these techniques will turn your office ogre into Shrek, I have found them helpful. Give them a try, and maybe you can start your workday with something less shocking than a pitcher of ice water.
by Danielle Dresden