Wed, June 12, 2024

Mondays with Rick: Getting Along with Co-Workers

Dr. Rick Franza, Professor of Management at the Hull College of Business, discusses a different, timely business topic each Monday in this column. This week he talks about getting along with co-workers. The interview has been edited for clarity and impact.

ABD: Most of us either work with other people or have in the past. But co-worker relationships can be kind of sticky. How important is it to have co-workers get along?

Rick: It’s particularly important to a small business because one bad person can poison the well. There’s a virtuous cycle between happiness and productivity. Mostly people want to be treated with respect.

ABD: What are some of the most common problems between co-workers?

Rick: One of the biggest issues is people being disrespectful to others. They take credit for other people’s work or shirk their duties. People can overcome working with people they don’t like but they want to be respected. Generally, people want to get along, but some people are selfish or narcissistic.

In my amateur psychology, I find often that younger people – and it doesn’t have to be much younger – had parents who protected them and kept them from failure, so now nothing is ever their fault. There’s less accountability.

ABD: What are the remedies if you have a co-worker that fits one of those descriptions?

Rick: One mistake a lot of people make is to escalate – if they’re acting bad toward me, I’m going to act bad toward them. But escalating the war is never a good strategy.

If it’s in the early stages of the relationship you can work at being a good role model and see if they change. Telling them what is bothering you in a nice, tactful way may help because sometimes they don’t even realize they’re creating a problem. Sometimes killing them with kindness works. Or having a mediator – I’ve often been the one people feel they can talk to, and then I’d try to talk to both parties.

Eventually you may have to report to a supervisor. For the supervisor it’s important to have open lines of communication, both individually and collectively. The way the situation grows worse is to let things go and they fester.

ABD: What if the supervisor is the co-worker causing the problems?

Rick: That’s difficult. Do you feel comfortable talking to someone above them, or maybe one of their peers? If not, it may be time to look for another job. There is no easy answer.

Sometimes problems between co-workers are caused by the different way men and women communicate.

ABD: You’ve mentioned the need for good communication, but I’ve observed that often the so-called problem is just the difference in communication styles between men and women. How does that play into the co-worker situation?

Rick: Women tend to take things more personally and tend to hold grudges longer in the workplace. Men can let things go more. It goes back to childhood when boys could be in fisticuffs one minute and friends the next. As men we need to realize that often it’s important to allow women to vent without offering a solution – we want to solve problems right away.

ABD: In a small business, the owner or manager may be working shoulder to shoulder with the employees. How should the owner handle a problem that is more co-worker than employee related?

Rick: The decision you have to make is, does their workplace value outweigh the annoying things they do. That depends on the thing that’s annoying you. Often, it’s an idiosyncrasy. But if you can’t get through to them about what they’re doing wrong, well, you can’t get through to everybody. Then you must decide if you tolerate them or think about moving on from them.

ABD: Are there things that owners or supervisors can do to mitigate problems with co-workers?

Rick: The remedy isn’t easy, but it always starts with hiring. Sometimes you inherit people, but when you have the opportunity to hire, that’s the place to start. When it comes to hiring faculty at Hull College we do a pretty good job of having them meet their potential co-workers during the interview process. But most people when they’re interviewing, it’s with a supervisor and they don’t know who their co-workers will be.

You often spend more time with co-workers than family. If people are disruptive, you don’t want them around. In baseball, the Braves do a great job of bringing in guys who fit well together because those guys spend more time with their teammates for six or seven months than with their families.

People can’t change their personalities. The magic bullet is being respectful and communicating.

Subscribe to our eNewsletter for the BEST local business news delivered to your Inbox each week day.

* indicates required

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Posts