By Lauren Beam (’07), Associate Director, Mentoring and Alumni Personal & Career Development, at Wake Forest University
We’ve all been there. If you haven’t, you may be at some point. You love your job in terms of the day-to-day tasks, projects, and clients with whom you work. But, unfortunately, you can’t say the same about your boss and/or colleagues. There are many reasons why there is no love lost with those individuals who you interact with day in and day out. Perhaps it’s a personality conflict, opposing work or communication styles, or simply that you are treated poorly by certain people around you. Regardless of your situation, what do you do when you love your job, but not your boss or co-workers? Consider these tips below as you think through how to manage your situation.
You can only control you. As difficult as it may be to admit, you cannot change other people! You can only control you – your actions, reactions, responses, and decisions. While your boss or colleagues may be difficult and can certainly impact the day-to-day aspects of your job, determine what is in your control. If you know that your boss always asks you to complete a certain task with little notice, what can you do to pre-emptively prepare yourself (or prep the work) for the last-minute assignment? Know that certain co-workers like to gossip about others in the office break room during lunch? Then, stop eating lunch with them! Take your turkey sandwich outside and enjoy a good book by yourself instead. Remember: you can only control you; you can’t change others.
Set boundaries (when appropriate and able). Whether it’s a relationship with your boss or a co-worker, find opportunities to set appropriate and healthy boundaries. And then, enforce them. This might require you to say “no,” to have difficult conversations, or to walk away from a situation. For example, let’s say there is a colleague who is higher-up in the organization than you but is not your direct manager. That person asks you to do menial tasks or small projects for them, which interfere with doing your actual job. If you feel that this is inappropriate, find the right opportunity to say “no” and communicate your job role in regards to theirs. You can treat others how to treat you, and often that requires some boundary-setting.
Examine yourself. Ever been around someone who is constantly complaining about what is wrong with everyone else? Perhaps you have been that person. If you finding yourself easily annoyed or angered by the behaviors of colleagues around you, take some time to examine your own attitudes and behaviors. You may have unrealistic expectations of others that they are not meeting, or you may be truly unhappy with your work life. Before blaming others, determine if there is something going on with you personally and/or professionally that will require an attitude and behavior shift on your part.
Determine if the pros of the work outweigh the cons of the colleagues. So you really love your job, but your team mates are the worst. Take time to reflect on the pros and cons of your job role and the interactions you are required to have with the people around you. Are the interactions minimal enough that you can still enjoy the day-to-day aspects of your job? Or, does your entire role involve team work with a colleague who makes every project miserable? Will any of the negative aspects of your job be getting better over time (for example, once that big project is completed, the late night hours that your boss has been requiring of you will end)?
Be deliberate and choose wisely. Ever had a miserable day at the office and started searching for a new job? We can all admit that we’ve been there, done that. If you think you’re ready to move on to another role or company, be deliberate and make smart choices about your next steps. Don’t let a grumpy colleague or threatening boss back you into a corner where you are taking any job offer that is given to you, simply as an easy out. Step back, think about what you want in your career, and make intentional decisions guided by reflection and research. This may mean staying in your current role to continue gaining professional experience and learning new skills. Or, that difficult manager or co-worker may just be the impetus you need to leave your current organization to explore new career interests.