Happiness at Work

How to maximize your psychological capital for success.

I Really Wanted to Punch Him!

Hate a colleague? How to deal with him.

I used to work with a bloke called Toby who I absolutely hated. He was malicious, conniving and worst of all scary. In fact at a Christmas party one year he hit someone - not in jest. He spread malicious rumors about others, was unnecessarily aggressive and yet no-one ever told him that what he did was unacceptable. No one ever pulled him up for anything he did. After that party all that happened was the gossip around the business ran riot.

That's the problem with a bully. They scare a lot of people and often nothing happens.

Yet Toby was worse than a bully. He was essentially a psychopath - he was wonderful to customers and people who'd be useful to him and a s*** to everyone else. No, of course not everyone is like him, and though Tobies still exist more often than you might imagine in workplaces near you, it's easier these days to deal with them. Twenty years ago we were just all very fearful of people like that.

But what can you do if you have to work with someone you don't like? Because when you don't like someone everything they do can bug you. From the way they enter a room, to the clothes they wear, to what they say. The whole package becomes annoying. So here are some tips to help with the mildly irritating person:

1. Think about what you share: that decreases the gap between you. Think about the goals, aspirations, values you might have in common and list them.

2. Imagine what it's like being that person and dealing with you. How do you think you make them feel?

3. Spend half an hour having coffee with them: what truly makes them tick? What didn't you know about them?

4. Tell them that you'd like things to work well between you and ask them for their suggestions to make your working relationship better.

5. Think about stating how you feel using this ‘when you...I feel...I'd like you to...because that way I'd...' It's a really, really useful phrase to help you state your case while telling the other person how you'd like them to be around you and how it might make things better.

But how do you deal with the Tobies of this world? Well you probably won't manage alone. You'll cope best if you make a joint approach with someone else who's observed the same as you have. Meanwhile here are five other things you can think about doing:

1. Don't collude with bad behavior: challenge it because not doing that will simply allow the person to continue.

2. Write down the incidents which feel like bullying to you and keep track of what happens.

3. Get official help from someone else so someone outside the situation knows; when dealing with someone like this people can wonder if it's being created by them. It's good to bounce that off someone outside the situation who is a disinterested party.

4. Report the person to HR if you think they are psychologically disturbed. Things might get worse for that individual and others if you don't.

5. Take time off to enjoy something you love. That will help you get some perspective on it.

You'll never make the Toby's of this world charming and lovely: all you can manage is your response to them, and the main thing is not to get caught up in the manipulative power play they so enjoy.

Jessica Pryce-Jones is the CEO of iOPener, a human asset management consultancy and author of Happiness at Work.


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