jump to navigation

What To Do When Your Co-Worker is Driving You Nuts December 11, 2013

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Coaching, workplace success.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
2 comments

712

 

I’ve been coaching people in the workplace for 14 years now. And as a workplace coach I get the opportunity to listen to a lot of stories of frustration and woe. Invariably these stories are about conflict that my client is having with another person they work with. And of course, it’s always the fault of the other insensitive, inconsiderate, incompetent—or any other in-word that you’d prefer. Of course as a good coach should do, I always listen carefully to the story. And then comes the expectant pause in which I am expected to utter pearls of wisdom. And I do—naturally.

You have a style difference

The pearl that often escapes my lips is this: You and your nemesis have a style difference. You’re not wrong and he’s not wrong—you just have a different style based on your personality type.

Most of my clients are conversant with the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and I go on to explain my comment in those terms. But even if you’re not familiar with the MBTI, you can probably benefit from taking a look at this idea. So here goes…

We each have our own particular set of preferences based on our personality. And because of our personality we have a preferred style of action.

An example of a style difference

Let’s look at an example. You are a very organized person. You place a lot of value on timetables and schedules. You like to map out project steps before you begin the project. You also like to make a decision and get on with it, preferring not to go back and re-visit it once it’s made. Surprises tend to upset your plans.

Your co-worker (the one that’s driving you crazy) likes to leave room in the schedule for late-breaking changes. She doesn’t want to map out each step, knowing that there will always be a need for changing based on the situations that come up. She likes to search for all the options before making a decision and likes to maintain flexibility throughout the project—so nothing is ever ‘cast in stone.’

As you can tell, the two of you have a style difference. You like to work a project in different ways. You may both come up with the same finished project but you get there using different paths. But her methods drive you crazy and vice versa.

So what can you do about that?

First of all remember that she is not trying to drive you crazy (even though she may be), she is simply working from her view of the world. She probably spends time wondering why you do the things that you do too. If you can appreciate that there may be something valuable in the way she works and actively look for that, you’ll probably have an easier time of it—and so will your co-worker.

Here are some things to try:

· Share your perspective about a new project and how you’d like to proceed. Then ask for her perspective. Have an open discussion about where you feel uncomfortable with her approach and get that same information from your co-worker.

· Understand that these are style differences—there’s no real right or wrong. If you can remember that more than likely there is no malice intended, it will probably be easier to work successfully together.

· Try adopting your co-worker’s style for a day and, if your relationship is close enough, ask her to adopt yours.

· When a conflict arises, explain why you are taking the course of action that you are.

· Be sincerely open to the idea that your way may not be the best way in all circumstances. Give the other method a try once in a while.

· Think about this: Behaviors that annoy you in others may be a clue to areas that you need to pay attention to for your own self-development. So if you are annoyed that your co-worker can’t seem to make a decision, maybe you are jumping to a decision too soon and need to practice more information-gathering before finalizing your decisions.

It’s been my experience that these small (or large) style differences lead to a lot of conflict in the workplace. And while conflict is inevitable, why not stop sweating the small stuff?