We’ve all encountered at least one really, truly crappy coworker at least once in our professional lives. You know, the one’s who sleep when the boss isn’t looking, take the last cup of Joe from the breakroom and don’t set another pot to brew, bully the weaker members of the team, steal yours and other coworker’s lunch goodies from the fridge, kiss butt with upper management like there’s no tomorrow — and just plain never get anything done like the guy in the picture below.
Then there’s the really crappy ones that stink up the bathroom with their noxious odor and don’t bother to use the air freshener spray that janitorial has kindly provided right there beside the sink where they’re supposed to wash their hands after they’ve dropped their daily quota! This might be my biggest pet peeve of working in an office (so glad that’s no longer an issue — crosses fingers!)
Let’s look at a few tools we can all use to better understand and (crosses fingers), deal with these inscrutable office misfits and perhaps even bring them back in line instead of freaking out and going completely AWOL like Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down:
1. Get compassionate on their sorry self
Hey maybe they’re a complete bozo, or a narcissist “fill in the blank”. That doesn’t mean you can’t try to come down (way down) to their level and try to understand why they are the way they are. Everyone carries a big bag of personal troubles with them everyday when they go to work. Understanding that their negative behavior (probably) doesn’t have anything to do with you goes a long way toward a good working relationship.
2. Beat them down with kindness
This is mainly for the negative type of coworker. It won’t work on someone who’s just a flat out dullard, or the narcissist who’s always right and never recognizes any opinion or method but their own. Being nice, even if it’s a little fake at first, is much easier than cultivating the extreme resentment that you’ve no doubt been projecting. Treat people as you want to be treated is the mantra to follow here. A simple good morning with a bright smile or a “how’s your day going” at lunch break will soon prove too difficult for them to resist. Only the most hardened of all crappy coworkers can resist your attempts to woo them with smiles and positivity indefinitely!
3. Be wiser
This one’s all about changing your perspective. If your first instinct is to feel anger or insult when “Mr. or Ms. Crappy Pants” tries to push your buttons, try to envision yourself as a monk or priest. One who never judges, no matter what external emotions are coming at them. Know that you did nothing to create this situation. You aren’t the dark cloud hanging over their head — it’s their fault. Try to help if you can but don’t dwell on everything they’re dishing out at you.
4. Take time to reflect
Heck, look directly at your reflection in the mirror. Is there anything you’ve done to set this person on the path they’re on currently in the workplace? Did you say something about them that might have gotten back? Did they try to talk to you on their first day and you blew them off because you were busy at the time and they were just a newb? You might have and didn’t realize it. Maybe you told the sleeping guy in the main image that this job was a breeze and nobody actually does any work around here? Be honest with yourself, but don’t reach too far looking for every little ambiguous thing you might have done either.
5. Talk to them
In a serious way, I mean. If you can’t figure them out, ask them! You’d be surprised how many people avoid this step because they want to adhere to some unspoken sense of political correctness. If all else fails, just ask and be ready for the barrage of nastiness or incessant excuses they might have in store for you. If you’re shy, suck it up. It’s not worth dealing with the anxiety they project on you and others at this point. This is time to pull out the “I’ve got nothing to lose” badge of courage and just do it. Own it. This is your sanity we’re talking about!
Hey, you might make a good friend out of them in the process!
6. Know when to walk away, know when to run…
“You better count your money, when you’re sittin’ at the table, they’ll be time enough for countin’, when the dealin’s done…” This line from Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler” has so many applications in life beyond playing poker. Sometimes, you do have to give up on them, or at least give up for the time being so you can refresh and recoup from their crappy crappitty crappiness. If all else fails, don’t get drawn in and let your blood pressure suffer for it. Walk away to fight another day. Report them to HR, fire them if you’re the boss.
Some people just can’t be saved!