It’s 7:45 a.m., and both you and your travel mug of Folgers have made it safely through the office doors and halfway down the hall. So far, so good. Another 15 yards, and you’ll be seated at your desk, where, thankfully, your headphones await. You glance backwards; the coast is clear. Five yards to go and … ARGH! Once again your path is blocked by none other than Most Annoying Coworker Ever.
Sound familiar? Nothing can zap workplace zeal quite like battles between coworkers. Whether it feels like a space-age battle complete with high-tech zingers or an old-fashioned Western duel with a face-to-face showdown, an office dispute can truly make your 9-to-5 miserable. Stay on top of the situation by learning about egregious behaviors and how to deal with them.
Giggles and whispers denote the gossip guru is nigh. This meddlesome nuisance sucks up anything and everything overheard and repeats it to the rest of the office, often with creative license to enhance the “juicy” factor.
Marie, a veteran nurse in an intensive care unit, fell victim to such a pest when she started working the night shift. Before she knew it, Marie was surrounded by Gossip Girl’s rumors and negativity. Every conversation seemed to be about who was doing what and where, subjects that not only promoted distrust among the entire crew but also distracted them from their focus: patient care.
How to Deal: Most of the time gossipers are trying to stir up trouble. To do that they need fuel for the conversation. If you don’t respond, they’ll have to move on.
If you find yourself in a perpetual plague of hearsay, look for ways to redirect the gossip’s attention by asking a few questions that show genuine interest in his or her life, such as, “How’s your home renovation project going?” If you hear that the dish is about you, go to the rumor mill’s source. Speak the truth about the situation, while also pointing out the hurt you feel about the swirling misconceptions.
What the Bible Says: Gossip is bad news. Proverbs 16:28 warns that it separates close friends, and Proverbs 18:8 notes that it affects a person’s innermost parts — spirit and soul. Steer clear of slander, and concentrate on loving your neighbors instead.
The Golden Child
If animatronics singing about small worlds could be translated into an office personality, this is it — The Golden Child. For whatever reason, this oh-so-irritating coworker catches the breaks, wins the favor, and always walks away the hero, while your efforts and achievements seem to go completely unnoticed.
Forty-something financial advisor Tim had a run-in with just such a character, who also happened to be the company owner’s son. Tim struggled with the praise the Golden Boy received, causing an employee with decades of experience to doubt his confidence and worth.
How to Deal: Navigating this situation is a slippery slope indeed. Tim chose to speak with his immediate supervisor about the situation, but little was resolved. Finally, he decided to seek encouragement from his family. They immediately rallied behind him, reminding Tim of all the things he had done for the company and of all the superb qualities he possesses.
What the Bible Says: You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and not only that, you were made in the image of God Himself (Genesis 1:27). He values you and has given you special talents and abilities. You are part of His family (Ephesians 1:5), and nothing is more golden than that.
It may have started sporadically, but now it’s as frequent and as annoying as the fossilized copier jamming. The sly comments, the close talking, the uninvited and unwelcome advances — each flirtatious act making the working week seem like 400 hours long instead of 40.
For Andrew, a 30-something graphic designer who had been with his company for more than five years, cheesy lines and lingering glances from a new coworker turned his attitude toward the job from delight to dread. Andrew’s work required almost constant communication with Flirty McFlirtsalot’s department, which meant he wound up in uncomfortable and unnerving situations on a daily basis.
How to Deal: The sooner you stop the advances, the better — even if they seem harmless. After Andrew’s situation escalated, he finally quoted the company’s policy that stated office dating was a no-no, but he admits speaking up earlier would have saved him a lot of grief. Though the thought of extinguishing Flirtsalot’s flames may seem awkward, it can be done tactfully so neither of you end up burning with embarrassment or resentment. And be sure that your actions aren’t sending mixed signals.
What the Bible Says: Proverbs cautions time and again to be on the lookout for stumbling blocks and temptations. With that in mind, remember to “put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him” (Colossians 3:10, NLT).
Click here for Part 2—The Complainer, The Credit Stealer, and what to do when your boss is the difficult coworker.