How to be Empathetic When You Just Don’t Get Along with Your Coworkers

Alright so the workplace is not all warm and fuzzies, as much as my internal Human Resources self wishes we could all just get along, that isn’t always possible. It’s not that we are bad people, well I guess some of us are straight up A holes, but for the most part, people mean well. Even with your best intentions it’s not always easy to get along with everyone.

If you find yourself in a situation where you just can’t meet eye to eye with someone take a few moments to consider some of the following points or check out my video.

People don’t typically come from a place of spite, they likely haven’t thought about you at all let alone purposely done something to annoy you. People typically do something because they think it is the right thing to do. If you adjust your perspective and empathize with people you might start to see the situation from their point of view. Did the person have an external pressure? A supervisor or project manager breathing down their neck for them to do something? Did something happen in their personal lives to distract them or upset them? Before you make a judgement, try putting yourself in their shoes first and seeing the situation from their perspective.

If someone has made you feel uncomfortable, the best thing to do is to address it head on. Approach the person and let them know exactly how you felt when they did the behaviour that upset you. Use “I” language, such as “I felt left out when you excluded me from the project meeting.” A person cannot argue with your feelings and it will avoid them putting their back up, like if you said, “you forgot to invite me to the project meeting and you better invite me next time.” In my experience, 99% of the time, the person had no idea that they offended you.

If you do have a conversation with someone always follow up with a quick email that summarizes the conversation. This is good in creating a paper trail as well as it presents the information in an additional format to really drive the point home.

Consider the person’s personality style and communication style. Are they an extroverted social butterfly, a serious go-getter, or a shy perfectionist? Do they love to stand and chat or would they prefer a quick email? Observe people’s behaviours and get to know how they prefer to work, then adjust your own style to align with the other person. I know I know, why should you do all the work? Because you are a leader, you strive for success and want to avoid conflict with your colleagues. Put in the effort, be the bigger person and it won’t go unnoticed. Remember you want to be the person that no one has anything bad to say about.

My final point is an important one. Don’t gossip. Let me repeat that, don’t gossip. What Suzy says about Sally says more about Suzy. One more time. Don’t. Gossip. I was told a story one time about a girl who was working as a model and she got to the photoshoot and started chatting with another woman on set. She started talking about some work she had done recently, and got to talking about the photographer who was a major creep and how grossed out she felt working with him. Well it turns out that woman was married to that photographer. Ok ok so it’s a pretty extreme example, but still. Don’t gossip.

I get it, working with people can be tough, if it wasn’t then maybe I wouldn’t have a job. But just remember these points next time you have a blow out with your colleague about how they hoard work or the next time you want to bad mouth someone for being lazy and inept.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are being bullied or harassed at work, please report the behaviour to a trusted leader or to Human Resources.

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