WORKING WELL WITH OTHERS

In the business world, no man (or woman) is an island. Most people in the work force work in the company of others. And like family members, working "siblings" have their share of ups and downs. Whether a manufacturer, retailer, trade or professional office, most businesses contain a variety of individuals, several of whom find it difficult to relate well with others. Face it. Some people are simply counterproductive in a variety of ways.

Most businesses employ several types of adversarial people: 1) The Brass Band. It's difficult not to notice this person. He (she) makes his presence known regularly, intimidating others through temper tantrums. Daily explosions are im- minent-- an overflowing geiser of emotion like "Old Faithful." This is the type of person in whose presence you can feel your stomach clench, heart race, palms perspire as anxiety wells up inside you.
Second the Critic. The purpose of a critic is to identify differences. And there are so many. Of paramount importance to this individual is the discovery of what is NOT working. And then to bring it to your attention, again...and again. He doesn't explode like the Brass Band, but his incessant criticism can undermine your confidence just as severely. Third the Friendly Enemy. Among the more commonly reported adversaries, this coworker is agreeable, supportive and kind when speaking in your presence. Then in your absence, tells a totally different tale. He may attempt to gain an advantage with a superior by undermining or otherwise misrepresenting your intent and accomplishments. Perhaps desirous of your peer relationships in the office, he may attempt to alter your reputation by offering idle gossip.
Forth the Secret Society. This can consist of one or more co- workers who are invested in the creation of an elite company sub-group, also known as the "in" crowd. Members of this club attend all the important meetings and social gatherings, are privy to "confidential" information and take pleasure in withholding essential inputs that are vital to your successful performance. These people believe they derive power and improved status through the exclusion of others.
Fifth the Space Cadet. Constantly distracted and oblivious to the task at hand, this person fails to see the big picture but rather, negotiates his day using a "management by crisis" approach. He is so consumed with the stumbling block of the moment that progress toward an identifed goal is stymied. He is about as focused as Mr. Magoo. In each of these cases it is useful to consider the limita- tions and choices available. It is unlikely that you will be able to significantly impact an adversarial coworker's personality so that he (she)" works and plays better with others." That's not part of your job responsibilities. How- ever, by learning to control your reaction and generate useful responses to such a person, you may develop a transfer- able skill that will prevent you from feeling victimized by people throughout your life.
Generally, there are three classes of responses that most people use with difficult coworkers: 1) Blind excuses. A most common strategy, this is an attempt to ignore what is occurring by rationalizing it or burying one's head in the sand. Tuning out the Brass Band or ignoring the Critic can avoid confrontation. But it can also lead to stress-related symptoms such as back pains or ulcers. 2) Counterattack! Fighting fire with fire. This is the "John Wayne" strategy for dealing with adversarial coworkers. An active approach, it generally contains elements of revenge, out-of-control explosions and embarrassing scenes. The product of frustration-gone-wild, it is an unprofessional choice. And those who embrace it run the risk of acquiring a reputation as bad as that of the coworker under fire. 3) Generative growth. This type of intervention not only de- fuses a bad situation of the moment, but provides the opportunity to use valuable resources that can be stored and applied again in the future. It is the most effective class of responses for dealing with difficult people, as it provides the opportunity to pause, consider your emotional reactions, and become creative in your interventions, asserting yourself while simultaneously altering the negative impact of another's behavior in a manner that seems acceptable. Moreover, if it produces the desired outcome, it will most likely win you the respect of others.