Interpersonal Edge: Make your annoying coworker a free career coach
Sunday, July 24, 2016

By Dr. Daneen Skube

Tribune Content Agency
  Q. I really, really dislike one of my coworkers. She is bossy, arrogant and demanding. She seems to have no shame about promoting herself and getting what she wants. Every day I dread dealing with her. Are there any techniques to handle the people at work that you hate the most?
  A. The best technique I teach to handle people you hate is to realize they are showing you the extreme version of something you need to learn to do. When you can’t stand a habit in someone else you are generally seeing something that is a weakness in yourself. You only feel run over by people who are overdeveloped in an arena where you are underdeveloped.
  For instance, if you can’t stand narcissists, the truth is you don’t take good enough care of yourself. If you can’t stand stupid people, you are self-critical and demand perfection from yourself. If you can’t stand angry people, you don’t admit when you are angry and use your anger to risk asking for what you want.
  I’m not saying that you should turn into the guy or gal in your office that you cannot stand. I am saying that this person is pointing out an area where you could use some development. Try this exercise. Write down the qualities of people you find intolerable. Now answer the following question for each quality: “On a scale of 1 to 10 I am a number X at (insert quality you don’t like).” For instance, “On a scale of 1 to 10, I am a 2 at being selfish and asking for what I want.”
  When you do this exercise, you’ll find you are generally below five on any quality you dislike in others. If you start to work at these qualities, using your anger, being selfish or negotiating for what you want, you’ll find these same people magically bother you less.
  If you are stronger at the qualities you don’t want, people who are extremely strong on these qualities simply don’t have as much room to harsh your mellow. People you don’t like challenge you to set better boundaries, negotiate better and stop engaging in power struggles.
  We often feel that there really ought to be behavior police who arrest people at work we find difficult. We don’t look at the ways in which their bad behavior could actually work, like a grain of sand in our emotional oyster shell, and force us to expand our behavioral options at work.
  What I tell my clients regarding these annoying coworkers is this: Your difficult coworker is showing up for free to teach you for free how to be more powerful and effective. You have to pay an executive coach a lot of money to show you where you are weak, but this person is doing this service for you for free. Use it!
  The last word(s)
  Q. I’ve made several mistakes with a coworker and have apologized, but he says it isn’t enough. Is there a way to gain his trust back?
  A. Yes, an apology means nothing without a plan to change. Give him a commitment to a plan and follow through.
 Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel’s “Workplace Guru” each Monday morning. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.) 

Printed in the July 24, 2016 - August 6, 2016 edition.


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