How To Approach A Coworker You Are Unsure About

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How To Approach A Coworker You Are Unsure About


As with normal, everyday life, you will meet all kinds of people at work. In order to navigate these relationships, it is necessary to employ a number of interpersonal skills.

It is tempting to just minimise contact with the person and avoid them when possible. And in some situations, this may actually be an appropriate answer – for instance, if the difficult coworker is someone you hardly work with or if you know that the short-term project you’re both working on will come to an end soon. However, more often than not, it is important to address relationship strains sooner rather than later. Unresolved tensions may lead to altercations and disagreements that could have been avoided.

Follow these steps if you are unsure about how to approach your coworker. 

Look inwards. Take this as an opportunity to self-reflect. Could it be that it is you that is overreacting to the situation? Perhaps you have a heavy workload, looming deadlines or are even facing some personal crises at home, unconsciously projecting these worries onto other people. Take note of what was said to you that you found offensive or frustrating – was it about something you are insecure over? Ensure that you are able to determine whether it is really another person’s behaviour that is frustrating you. 

Consult colleagues you trust for advice. It is always good to have an objective perspective to weigh in on your situation. Perhaps your colleague has worked with that coworker in the past and can give some useful advice on how best to communicate with them. 

Have a private conversation with the person concerned. Always phrase what you say in terms of how their words or actions affected YOU, so it doesn’t seem like you are attacking them. Be amicable and agreeable when you speak with them. Sometimes, people don’t know how they affect others and it could just be a case of ignorance. You may also use positive statements, such as “I really enjoy working at this company and would like to have good relationships with everyone,” or open-ended ones, such as “I value our work relationship and so would like to know what you think of our current interactions.”

Have a follow-up conversation. Determine whether their behaviour has improved, stayed the same, or gotten worse. If it has worsened, it may be time to escalate the issue to your manager or supervisor. 

Escalation. Show your boss that you tried to handle things independently first; if not, it will look like you are unable to take responsibility. Make sure you frame your concerns in terms of how it affects your productivity and the quality of your work, as opposed to solely about the interpersonal relationship itself.

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