Rachel Pearce shares her key dos and don’ts for anyone who’s struggling with a tricky workmate.
I’ve had some pretty fruity colleagues over the years. There was Janet, the Queen of Overshare, who told me, in detail, about her sexual exploits with her husband… who also happened to work with us. Then there was Donald the Trump, who would pass wind loudly and proudly in mid-conversation, without any attempt at an apology. Lynne the Mean Cleaner had a vendetta against any personal items she found lying around the office. Cups left on the desk frequently disappeared, and I once found my favourite novel tidied away into the recycling bin.
But I’m currently facing my biggest workplace challenge to-date, with a colleague who has me (and another workmate) constantly treading on eggshells. She is both insensitive and oversensitive at the same time. She demands our undivided attention but yawns loudly whenever anyone else talks. One time she completely lost it over something that wasn’t my fault, and screamed at me via video call for a good ten minutes, using language every colour of the naughty rainbow. I’m usually pretty thick-skinned, but I was physically shaking by the end of the call.
She screamed at me via video call for a good ten minutes, using language every colour of the naughty rainbow.
So what can you do when you just can’t get on with the people you work with? Here are some dos and don’ts I’ve picked up over the years – several of which I’ve had to learn the hard way!
Do: PRAY. This is the best thing you can do if you have a tricky colleague. Pour out your heart to God and ask for his supernatural wisdom and grace. If you can, pray for your workmate, who may have things going on behind the scenes that you don’t know about.
Don’t: Gossip about your unpleasant co-worker with other members of staff. Not only is this ungodly, but it will almost certainly make the situation worse.
Do: Keep a log of any incidents you feel are disciplinary issues (for example a colleague who can’t keep their hands to themselves, uses offensive language or employs bullying tactics).
Don’t: Allow your nasty co-worker to sabotage your career. Try to keep your head down and stay focused on your main tasks. Avoid giving your wayward workmate the satisfaction of preventing you from realising your full potential!
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Do: Talk to your boss about these issues. And if they are the colleague in question, or you’ve already tried talking to them without success, speak to their boss, someone in HR, a union rep or the relevant legal body.
Don’t: Pack in the job on a whim because you just you can’t take it any more. If you need some breathing space, use annual leave or ask HR for flexibility until you’re back on track. I’m sure they’d rather lose you for a few hours or even days than lose you altogether.
Do: Remind yourself what the Bible says about you (for example, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made", "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me", "I have been adopted into God’s family", "I am a citizen of heaven"), and meditate on these statements if you’re feeling low. Say them to yourself in front of the mirror or stick them in your phone as reminders of important biblical truths that pop up when you’re feeling undervalued, undermined or under attack.
Don’t: Suffer in silence. If it’s getting too much and you can’t talk to anyone in your workplace, reach out to someone else. Ask trusted friends and church leaders to pray with you. Speak to your GP if it’s affecting you physically or mentally. Ring Premier Lifeline if you need someone to listen and pray with you. And cry out to the One who loves, liberates, heals and saves.