Q: I’ve been stressed-out at work over relations with a new coworker. He is talented and ambitious, but behaves as though he’s jealous of my position. I feel threatened and don’t know how to react to his aggressive temperament.
A: Dealing with difficult people in the workplace can put a strain on your nerves and on your ability to perform in your job, especially when jealousy over position is a factor. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
It takes time to build new relationships of mutual trust and respect, and you may have to work at it. As frustrated and threatened as you may feel, you can be sure that persistent kindness will pay off in the end.
It’s like the story of a man who moved into a community where a notoriously disagreeable and contentious old man lived. When the newcomer to the neighborhood was warned about the old man’s temperament, he answered, “If he disturbs me, I will kill him!” His statement reached the ears of his ill-tempered neighbor who had, in various ways, already begun to torment the new settler. But every offensive action was met with kindness until at last the cantankerous old man was overwhelmed by the kind words and deeds of his new neighbor. As a new friendship began to blossom, the old man admitted, “I was told that you said you would kill me, but I didn’t expect you to do it this way!”
Here are a few practical tips that can help you improve your relations:
- Concentrate on finding contentment in giving your best, regardless of what others say or do.
- Keep your cool. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
- Sincerely compliment all your coworkers, but especially those whom you feel threatened by.
- Pass on the credit to others at every opportunity. If someone gives you a tip or corrects a mistake before it causes a problem, or when someone thanks you for your good work, share the credit.
- Make friends with coworkers on a social level, even if just over a cup of coffee out of the office.
- Take time to listen to others. Show interest in their situations and be sympathetic.
- If you’re in a position to improve or change things at work, ask your coworkers for suggestions that would help their work to go better.
- Laugh at others’ jokes.
- Most of all, ask the Lord for insight into your coworker and for plenty of His love to be able to handle him or her. His love will spread encouragement and tolerance that will lift up others and cause them to respond in kind.