Teamwork requires respect. There are times, however, when a co-worker’s attitude makes teamwork difficult at best and often impossible. A problem staffer can disrupt an entire office setting. Coping with a difficult co-worker is a real skill and one that is essential for the well-being of an organization in general and yourself in particular. The fact of the matter is that few offices have 100% retention – every organization goes through several employees to find a good team player. It is the exceptional team players that travel agencies want to retain, and there is strong motivation to rotate the difficult staffers out of the office as efficiently as possible with minimum disruption to the whole. But while the difficult personality is on staff, how to cope?
Firstly, take comfort in the fact that it is highly likely that you are not the only employee that perceives a problem with the trouble co-worker. Seldom does an individual reserve their worst characteristics solely for the benefit of only one other individual. Chances are, if you are having problems with a personality, others are as well. Your first mode of action is to handle the situation on a one-to-one basis without involving others. Isolate the problem and identify it. Different problems have different solutions. A co-worker who is surly is a different situation from a co-worker who does not do their fair share of work. Step back and analyze the situation objectively. To what degree might you be contributing to the situation? Many conflicts can be traced to simple misunderstandings: the co-worker may not have intended to be rude or they may not understand their job assignment, especially if they are new to the office. The first rule of good human relations is to assume good will.
If you have determined that a real problem exists and must be dealt with to preserve the integrity of the office environment, don’t discuss the situation laterally with others in the office. Instead, approach the co-worker directly. Explain the situation as you perceive it, using facts and non-emotional language. Approach the person in the spirit of problem solving. Setting behavioral expectations early on is important. With just a bit of luck, the situation may iron itself out in a quite, private manner.
If you need to request assistance from a manager, do so as soon as possible. If you and the co-worker have different managers, speak with your own. Remember that management can assist with the situation, but in all fairness the resolution may rest with you and the other party. It is often very worthwhile to assess whether the situation is truly a conflict or just a convergence of two different perspectives and relational types. If you dislike a co-worker, or even a superior, you can nevertheless learn from them and productively appreciate their perspectives and contributions. However, if the behavior in question is preventing you from doing your own job well, you must deal with it. Explain the situation to your manager as objectively as possible. Don’t attempt to gain an upper hand in the situation, that is a prescription for disaster. Instead, explain the situation with facts and describe how it affecting the work effort in the office.
Once the situation has been addressed, allow the co-worker a real opportunity to redeem themselves. Take the initiative to heal any wounds. Thank them for listening to you and for addressing the issue. Professionals know that conflict arises even in the best of situations. Handling a difficult co-worker professionally is the sign of a mature business person.
On the other hand, if you are the problem…
This article is provided free to the travel agent community by: