By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I work with one rude co-worker and have tried everything to get along with him. It seems like the nicer I am, the worse he acts. Do you have any suggestions on how to shape up an especially rude co-worker?
A. To shape up an especially rude co-worker, start by examining your need to be liked by everyone you work with. I had a teacher a long time ago who told me a powerful truth: "If no one is mad at you, you aren't doing anything."
Some people at work will not like us because we look like their mother, remind them of an ex-spouse, or make them feel inadequate. For us to believe that every time anyone doesn't like us we must be doing something wrong is deeply inaccurate.
What can happen if we have to be liked by everyone is that we experience rude co-workers as an assault on our self-esteem. We can start a campaign for them to like us because we can't tolerate feeling rejected (which has nothing to do with being effective at work).
In general, in work and life, learning to tolerate feelings we find uncomfortable is richly liberating. Instead of chasing your co-worker and being nicer, you will find yourself with a new set of options. Keep in mind that none of these options are about feeling approved of by your rude co-worker.
Next time your co-worker is rude, try any of the following:
1) Detached stare and no reaction.
2) Walk away.
3) Curt and concise verbal response.
4) Indifferently state that you can't help him.
You are probably seeing that the theme I'm recommending is the opposite of what you have been attempting. There are times at work when a "soft answer does turn away wrath," but consistently rude people respect tough love more than sweetness and light.
Consider that your workplace is a jungle of different personalities. If you were engaging a cobra, would you keep hopping over like a fuzzy bunny, looking cute, or would you bring out your inner alligator? Which animal do you think your cobra co-worker is more likely to respond to?
Remember: In nature, an alligator doesn't go out of its way to be mean - then again, very few animals in nature mess with an alligator.
If you are able to change the animal you act like in the workplace, it doesn't change your soul, but it does change the types of people you can be effective around. You're fine being a bunny with other bunnies - they'll love you and want to do business with you. Just contemplate that having only one personality you can express may limit your effectiveness and cause you to be consistently eaten by workplace reptiles.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" . She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com
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This was printed in the July 3, 2011 - July 16, 2011 Edition