Everyone at work loves you, but Sue.
The energy I keep around me governs how I live my daily life, so naturally, I strive to keep good, positive, productive energy around me. I'm sure you do the same thing. But what if you're in a situation where you can't control the energy around you, and as much as you try to set it right, it continues to swing left? That is the type of scenario I've been experiencing with one of my coworkers. Curating the energy around me certainly extends to my work life because I spend so much time there. I want for my life to be enjoyable altogether, not just outside the hours of 9am and 5pm.
I'm not going to spill the juice about the situation here on this post because I've already done my venting. Just know that my working dynamic with this coworker never seems to be on the same page despite how many feedback sessions we have. For some background if you haven't read any of my previous posts, I am a Guest English Teacher in South Korea, and co-teach my classes with Korean teachers. I have blamed the miscommunication between said coworker and I on the language barrier in the past, but I've come to believe that is not the issue. And because I want to keep the energy in the post positive, productive, and generally good, I'm going to offer you some of my tips on how to handle work with someone who finds something wrong with everything you do, or maybe you feel has a problem with you. Hopefully y'all can share your tips with me as well. The below are in no particular order.
*update* first, look inward
It's often hard to be self-aware in these situations where we believe someone is doing us wrong. I know that can be hard for me, anyway. However, once I'm able to rule out my own participation in the whole mess, I feel marginally better. There are also times when I'm complicit in the relationship going awry because of an attitude I may have caught, or some unintentionally harmful/insensitive words I may have used prior. Having perspective on yourself can seem impossible at times, so here's where a trusted confidant would play a part. If that kind of person is not available to you (my case these days), I'd say you just have to be aware that you may be somewhat off-putting, even in the slightest, for whatever reason. It's a hard pill to swallow, but you're not for everyone, and everyone is not for you, right?
separate your work brain from your emotional brain
Or, compartmentalize, as they say. It's a toss up for me; sometimes I can do it with ease, but most times I can't. If I can be transparent (duh, because it's your own damn blog), I have a hard time not internalizing negative feedback. I had, what I call, a traumatic work situation in the past that left me feeling very vulnerable to attacking words under the guise of "critique". But I've learned so much from that experience, like to try and leave work at work and your emotions out of things that are task-oriented. I know this is easier said than done (as I'm breathing my way through it right now), but I promise, it will make curating that positive energy so much easier. Before walking into work, try inhaling and exhaling deeply, then saying "I will not internalize any negativity I experience here today," and repeat it as a mantra throughout the day as needed. After, like, two weeks of this, your views on the experience are sure to change.
Chalk up their behavior to something happening in their life
We can't control how people act. We can only control how we act and react. Sometimes when I'm getting some not-so-great energy from someone, I chalk it up to a bad mood. What happens when I do the alternative and assume they hate me and they're out to get me is not a productive use of my time or energy. Ever realize how your mood can change once you conclude you're disliked by someone? So instead of taking it there from the outset, I try to rule out other possibilities first. Sometimes your benefit-of-the-doubt-thinking is correct, and other times... well, it's not.
make sure to advocate for yourself
A bully is a bully is a bully. When we're older and in the working world, they tend to take on shapes and forms that don't resemble the schoolyard big mouth. Also because the stakes are higher in the workplace, (particularly when you're beginning your career) you'll take almost any treatment in order to show you can handle and are embracing your job. The problem here is that when we allow bullies a say in our worth, they believe they can control the whole thing. It might be difficult, but it is always a worthwhile decision to stand up to a person who is blatantly belittling you, your work, or your reputation. This is a battle that should always be picked, because if worse comes to worst, you will know in your spirit of spirits that you held your ground and kept your value in tact.
Only interact when you have to and keep it short and sweet
In the past when I sensed that someone didn't like me but I couldn't identify a reason, I would pull out several stops to try and make them like me: gas them up, buy them things, make them things. What the hell was I doing? I ask myself now. If someone doesn't like you, they don't like you. Adult people don't dislike other adult people because one didn't buy the other something. If they want to like you, they will, and similarly, if they want to dislike you, they will find a way to achieve that goal. That said, I recommend to only interact with a person causing you an issue (or sweat flops in my prior situation) when you absolutely need to. And when you do, keep it succinct, on task, and productive (word of the day?). Just keep the ball rolling and allow that relationship to be a strictly work relationship. Look, I know it's not ideal. We spend so much time at work that we want to be able to get on with everyone and go to the roller rink together - but that is not reality. Some people will accompany you to the roller rink, and others will accompany you to the 2pm team meeting and that is it! Haha, I was passionate about that one.
Have a person or activity you can turn to to offset negative energy
For me at work it's writing, reading, editing, watching cooking videos on YouTube or just roaming around school, interacting with children. Shoot, sometimes you just need a release to get back to equilibrium. This is a piece of advice I wish I had when I was back in that traumatic situation, but alas, if I had it then I probably wouldn't be sharing it now. This tip is not to encourage suppressing negative thoughts or feelings, but to not give them jurisdiction over your psyche. It comes back to that affirmantra (love new words *wink*) I stated earlier: "I will not internalize any negativity I experience here today." It doesn't have a place my world, but watching people make rainbow hummus does!
If your ability to perform is affected, elevate the situation
I mean, this one speaks for itself. This is what HR exists for. Personally, I have always been apprehensive about elevating interpersonal work situations. I have always wanted to cure the problem myself, or was in denial that the problem was even that bad, or truly felt I would be fired. Clearly there was so much fear when it came to advocating for myself and determining a solution for any of my work woes. But times have changed, and I firmly believe that no one deserves to feel like a target when they go to work. Obviously, if in this situation, the language you use to elevate the circumstance is fragile, so make sure you're well prepared.
Have a sit-down to come to an understanding
...or at least to try to. Here's where you can put together a short list of what's bothering you, why they're bothering you, and what some potential solutions could be. Try to remember to speak how you'd want to be spoken to; so if you wouldn't like to be blamed 100% for xyz happening, try not to use that language when airing your grievances. These meetings can go well when the person doesn't realize there is a problem and is willing to change, or actually felt the same way but didn't know how to bring it up. In the best case scenario, you will maybe become friends or agree to focus solely on the work. In other cases, the problem can persist. It's unfortunate, but sometimes this is how things are. I'm just tryna keep it real. Straight, no chase.
Refrain from Gossip
It only makes the situation worse. Trust me.
These tips come from all my adult work experience, not just the one that initially inspired today's article. I know some people will relate and others will feel differently. That's okay. I'm curious to know your stories, though.
What do you do to keep your cool at work under the face of negativity?