How to Build Productive Relationships with Your Coworkers

This guest post, about dealing with your coworkers comes from Lesley Vos, professional web writer and marketing specialist. To submit your own guest blog, first read the guidelines here.

Does this sound like you?

I can’t stand these people anymore! My boss is so ignorant… Maybe, it’s time to quit?

Whether it’s your first job or not, you can’t quit every time you meet problem-people at work. Ignoring them wouldn’t be a good idea, either: after all, you have to work with them every day. The author of The Elephant in the Room, Diana McLain Smith suggests that your frustration at work is a signal of your incompetence. In plain English, people confuse you because you don’t know how to deal with them.

The question is, would such knowledge help you succeed?

Productive Coworkers

When you understand the reasons for your conflicts with coworkers, you can develop a behavioral model to prevent them, build a solid career network, and develop a flexible career work culture. The given understanding is about your emotional intelligence, as well.

According to Levo Institute, 80% of millennials in the workforce consider emotional intelligence significant for career advancement. So do hiring managers. They’re looking to find great talents for their organizations, people who can lead – and emotional intelligence plays a significant role in leadership abilities.

Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions – in oneself and others – and to use that information appropriately.” Besides influencing your job performance, mental and physical health, leadership potential, and general happiness, emotional intelligence (aka EI) relates to relationship success and determines your behavior in conflict situations.

Reasons for conflicts at work vary. The most common ones include:

  • Lack of information
  • Subjective perception of a situation
  • Communication gaps
  • Different values and behavioral styles
  • Poor leadership
  • Competition
  • Stress

To cope with difficult coworkers, make sure you work on developing your emotional intelligence. But meanwhile, the below strategies can help, too.


Identify “Toxic” coworkers

To know how to deal with them, identify them first. Who are your “toxic” coworkers?

  • Performing insignificant talks too often.
  • Going behind peoples’ backs.
  • Plagiarize ideas and work, presenting them as their own.
  • Don’t meet deadlines and, thus, torpedo some projects.
  • Criticize subordinates and their work, with little reasoning.
  • Moody and arrogant, and you can’t confront them for fear of losing a job.

Depending on their sins, you can take stock of the situation and adapt one of the following tactics to stop them driving you crazy.


The Principle of Six-A

These are six strategies described by Lolly Daskal in the article How to Deal With a Difficult coworker. As she says, “there will always be annoying, angry, chagrined, cross, irritating, and difficult people in our lives.” To survive a difficult relationship with coworkers, “we may not be able to fix them, but we can always care for and protect ourselves.”

Her six-A include:

  1. Acceptance. It seems easy but requires discipline and commitment, hard to maintain sometimes.
  2. Anticipation. Look ahead and be ready for troubles that might happen.
  3. Adjustment. Make sure you do everything you can to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings.
  4. Attunement. Try to find something you can appreciate about a problem person.
  5. Avoidance. Cut direct contacts when possible.
  6. Application. Change department if possible, move, or work from home.

Sure, the application process is challenging, especially for career pioneers. To make it come to the close faster, make sure to pay attention to your soft skills valued by savvy hiring managers today. Also, don’t hesitate to consider working from home: it might be a beneficial alternative to exhaustible conflicts in traditional offices.

Remember Four Don’ts

Some people take enjoyment in conflicts. If your coworkers are of that kind, they will grasp for any chance to provoke or backbite you. Your ability to keep from talking and strike a compromise enhances a chance of building a career.

To defuse conflicts and misunderstandings, follow these rules:

  1. Don’t violate social media policy. (33% of bosses would not hire you for that.)
  2. Don’t disrupt colleagues from work. (22% of employees confirms that a boss can fire for that.)
  3. Don’t gossip. (Becky Blanton explains why bosses should fire for that.)
  4. Don’t ignore office politics. (Its underlying psychology is quite controversial.)


Keep It Confidential

Two rules work here:

  1. Don’t go public, i.e. don’t confront a coworker in full view.
  2. Don’t complain to others, or you might develop a whiner reputation. Or, coworkers can blame you for office conflicts.

Think positive and become the one who starts a discussion. Use the situation to understand your problem coworkers better. Learning from them makes it easier to work together in the future.

There is no rule that you should be best friends with colleagues, and it is okay to be on a different page with people. And yet, be professional and treat coworkers with respect.

Follow these strategies, and you will focus on your work better, as well as master your intellectual integrity faster. Also, you’ll learn how to deal with problem people not only at work but in personal life.



Lesley J. Vos, Writer & Marketer

Lesley is a professional web writer and marketing specialist with 5+ years of experience in data research, content creation and distribution. She is a regular contributor to publications on career, digital marketing, and self-development. Feel free to follow Lesley on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

Topics: teamwork, productivity, coworkers, WFA Management

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