October 30, 2020

Scary Co-Workers — Should you Approach Them or Should you Run?


Most of us have, at some point, had coworkers who made a good job terrible or a terrible job worse. They come in all forms, and it can be difficult to know when and how to approach the situation. Here are a couple types of scary co-workers and suggestions on how to handle them.

A bad co-worker’s office is like the scary old house at the end of the street. No one really knows what to expect, but everyone is afraid to knock on the door. Most of the time, a closed office door means the person inside is on a call or in the middle of a project. But what about the guy whose door is closed from 8 to 5? The next time something requires his attention, try knocking and simply ask, “Hey, can I run something by you, or would you prefer to set up a meeting?” Unless you ask, you’ll never know whether they are open to questions and impromptu discussions or if emails and calls are the best approach.

Unhelpful colleagues can jeopardize your success. Before you categorize them as uncooperative, however, determine whether their actions are intentionally harmful. Is a colleague not sharing information to make herself look better, or because she doesn’t have access? Is she unresponsive to your text asking her to cover a shift because she wants to get you in trouble or did she not receive the message? Often, the co-worker’s actions are due to a lack of resources. Talk to administrators about providing tools, such as an employee work schedule app, that make it easy to share information and communicate with colleagues. This gives everyone an opportunity to be as helpful as possible for the good of the team.

Some co-workers are just plain unpredictable, and their Jekyll-and-Hyde personality puts everyone on edge. The days when Dr. Jekyll – the good-natured, easy-going coworker shows up, projects run smoothly, and the atmosphere is relaxed. But it takes just one Mr. Hyde in an office to create tension and make people walk on eggshells. Personalities like this are best handled by administrators, so it’s important they understand the situation. Have a conversation with management or HR, and carefully outline your concerns. Have specific examples in mind instead of generalizing the co-worker as a bad person.

Toxic employees can create a hostile work environment and cost companies money due to the high turnover of those they alienate. Addressing the situation directly or via administration will make your daily work life less stressful and help ensure your awesome co-workers stick around to help contribute to the success of your organization.

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