The Coworker That Causes You Stress

The American Institute on Stress has been researching workplace stress since 1988 and believes it has discovered its significant causes.  They include unrealistic workload (46%), people issues (28%), juggling work and personal lives (20%), and a lack of job security (6%).

The subject of stress has been researched quite a bit, and in nearly every study, it is made clear that the way to resolve it is not to ignore it or pretend it isn’t happening. Doing so will just add to your stress level and make the problem worse.

Let’s focus on what happens when two people don’t get along.  Take a moment to understand what you perceive as a problem.  Stand back and try to figure out what is going and what you are doing to contribute to the issue as no one is perfect. I read a case study where an employee couldn’t stand how another person worked on specific tasks.  Following a 360-assessment review of the office, it turned out that many others perceived the person who complained the loudest in the department as the problem.

If you are dealing with someone who disagrees with your approach to a project or work, sit down with the person to discuss their reasoning.  Tell them the way you view the issue and ask them to explain theirs.  One or both of you might be surprised by the other person’s logic, and you might be able to resolve the issue quickly.

Don’t get emotional.

Don’t make it personal.

During the conversation, listen carefully.  Don’t interrupt or try to think of what you want to say next, as this is not an exercise in winning. Instead, it is about finding a solution to a conflict.

The other person may have the same facts you do, but they just view the world differently because of life experiences or some other reason.  In that case, you may not be able to convince them that you are right and need to change, but you might find a middle ground.  It’s ok to admit that while you disagree with the other person, you understand their reasoning.  You should explain your thinking as well.

If the person tries to cut you off, ask them to ‘hear you out’ just as you listened to their point of view.

It is also possible that a thorough discussion of the issue may result in a solution that neither of you had thought about.  This third point of view’ is possible if both parties come together to truly vet answers rather than try to win.’

If, on the other hand, you can not reach a mutual understanding of how to proceed, that is probably the time to bring in your boss.  Explain to the other person you want to do so because it is evident that you aren’t reaching a consensus, and resolving the issue remains the most important thing. Agree that you will jointly invite the boss to your next conversation, so it doesn’t appear that one person is trying to take advantage or seems to be squealing.

Not all workplace conflicts are destructive.  When sales representatives compete to reach the company’s sales goal, that competition may appear to be a conflict. Still, as long as it doesn’t get personal, a little friendly competition motivates all of us to do a bit better.

Finally, it is essential to note that kind of conversations and solutions suggested in this article are related to a person’s approach to an assignment and their general behavior in the office.  If you feel that another person is harassing you on the job, you should come forward immediately and discuss the matter with your boss and or your human relations department.  That is a different type of situation that requires an extra level of involvement.

The stress brought on by my coworkers is particularly challenging for managers.  I’ve been researching why some workers get on stress and approaches that work for dealing with them.  My online course, “Managing Difficult People,” addresses this and other related issues. It is designed to give you the tools to deal with problem workers.  Check it out HERE.

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