The last couple of weeks have been a big-time learning experience to me thanks to a particular project I’ve been working on. Did you ever play on one of those soccer teams when you were younger where everybody got to play regardless of their skills because you take anyone who signs up, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating to be playing with the girl who somehow managed to put on lots and lots of weight before she even turned eight so she’s already sweating like an obese man in a steam room, can’t quite run up and down the soccer field and doesn’t really see her feet over her tummy so she never quite makes contact with the ball? Okay, so I might be getting a little facetious, but sometimes, these types of teammates manage to find their way into the work place. And sometimes, you also get teammates that were the cocky heroes who might have scored, but all they did was stand on the back post while you dribbled the ball through six defenders, curved your shot around the keeper where they stepped in last second and stuck their foot out to get the last touch before the ball went in the goal.
Here are my WISE tips on how to deal with these people when you find them in the workplace:
- Avoid their cubicles after they eat broccoli for lunch. I don’t think that this needs further explaining. However, if they happen to share their cubicles with others, you should feel bad for said others and offer to buy them Axe. Mmm, Axe and brocooli.
- Remember that emails and IM are your friend. These modern day technologies provide you with a great shield to protect your personal boundaries from people who irritate you with either their insistence to wear socks and sandals, or because they stare at people with creepily, unblinking, buggy eyes.
- Don’t lower your hygiene standards just to fit in. Please continue to smell like powder fresh deodorant, tide-clean socks and minty fresh breath. Don’t quit brushing or take up late night drinking just to fit in with an awkward, strange-smelling IT introvert.
- Watch your back and know who might be out to get you. You’re guaranteed to have at least a handful of passive-aggressive coworkers around you. They’re easy to spot if you know the signs: kiss up to boss, twist and tangle words to make you look like a slacker and them look like a hero, and they prefer to wear red on Fridays. The best way to deal with them is through preemptive attacks: keep a written record of significant conversations even if this means you are talking with them in your cube and have to say, “Um, hey, Mr. Passive Aggressive, can we finish this conversation later? You go back to your desk and I’ll email you.”
- Don’t get frustrated when a coworker isn’t particularly competent. Just so you know, this isn’t a list that I have mastered. For this last one, I could probably set goals to try and accomplish it. This would include things like, “don’t talk to competent coworkers so you realize what it’s like to work with those types of people who can’t actually do their jobs,” or “don’t get assigned to projects with the incompetent coworker, even if that means running and screaming away from your sprint planning meeting when they walk in.” Good goals.
It’s only five things, but it’s a good start.