Dealing with a Rude Co-worker
By Dr. David Hawkins
CBN.com Many of us spend more time at the office, or workplace, than anywhere else. Adding commute time to the equation, we may spend more time going to work, being at work or coming home from work than we do with our children or mate.
Studies show that Americans are not working less, as had been anticipated decades ago, but are in fact working more. Many of us work full-time, not counting the hours we spend thinking about our work. These facts make it all the more imperative that we enjoy our work and the people with whom we work.
However, this is not a perfect world. Many find themselves working with someone with “an attitude”, someone who is self-centered and demanding, or in the case of a woman who recently wrote to me, someone who was just plain rude.
As Christians, what are we to do when faced with someone who needs an attitude adjustment? Are we to simply “turn the other cheek,” as Jesus advised in Matthew 5: 39? Or, is there a time and place for “letting them have it?” These are both extreme positions, and there is often a practical response in the middle. As challenging as these situations are, there is often an opportunity hidden in the midst of the conflict.
Let’s consider the email I received recently from a distraught office worker.
Dear Dr. David,
I am a paralegal working in a practice with several attorneys. We all work very hard and at times the stress level is high. Not surprisingly, when the stress level is high we can get short with each other. There is one attorney, in particular however, who is at times rude. He is egotistical, self-centered, and demanding. He makes requests of me without any pleasantries or kindness, and simply expects me to drop everything to work for him. While this is my job, I would like him to treat me with respect and dignity.
I pride myself in conducting myself in a professional manner and expect others to do the same. This one attorney seems to have little awareness of how demanding he can be or the fact that he creates stress and chaos wherever he goes. He simply expects everyone to cater to his every wish.
While I love my work, I don’t like this man. I’ve grown increasingly resentful and angry and it’s beginning to affect my work. When he asks me to do something for him, I find myself resenting it, stalling, and putting off his requests. He has become even more impatient with me, which makes me fear losing my job, but also resenting him even more. I seem to be digging myself into a hole I’m not sure I can get out of. Can you help?
Dear fed-up worker,
Your situation is, sadly, quite common. Many of us work with someone who bothers us. It is not uncommon to work with someone we resent and wish wasn’t in our lives. However, because it isn’t a perfect world, we must find a way to deal effectively with this dilemma. We all need tools to deal with difficult people. Let’s consider some possible solutions.
1. Become even more aware that your growing resentment is a signal that all is not well. While that may seem obvious to you, many are unaware of how much tension and anger they carry with them toward others. Recognize your resentment as a warning sign that something must change. Ignoring the problem will not work, and in fact will only make things worse. Ignoring your anger enables the destructive process to continue.
2. Honor your feelings. Rather than push them away, bring them closer to the surface. Ponder what you are resentful about and what needs to change. What are your expectations that are not being met? Are they reasonable expectations or should your expectations be modified? Sometimes our anger is misplaced and we need to accept what is happening. At other times, and this appears to be the case for you, anger and resentment are signals that our boundaries are being violated.
3. Recognize your feelings not only as a warning sign against something external—in this case the rude coworker—but also as something missing inside. In this case you seem to be very passive to this man’s egotistical and rude behavior. You make no mention of having talked to him, sharing your needs and feelings. I cannot help but wonder if passivity is one of your traits needing attention. Do you typically withdraw from conflict, choosing instead to nurse a grudge?
4. Pray about your situation. God promises to go before us in trying circumstances. We are advised to bring everything to God in prayer—especially these things that weigh us down (Philippians 4:13). Pray believing that God hears your prayers and wants to work things out for your good. A prayed-out situation always goes better than one where we move ahead on our own.
5. Recognize that it is time for a talk. You have every opportunity to respect his position while also requesting respect in return. It has been said, “We teach people how to treat us.” I wonder if your passivity through the years has been a “green light” for him to take advantage of your kindness. Now, finally, you’re dealing with years of built-up frustration. Consider asking him to talk, sharing with him your feelings of growing anger, requesting that he discontinue his rude and demanding behavior. Be specific about what he is doing and how you feel about it. Be firm, clear, and respectful, and ask for the same from him.
Obviously, such action comes with some risk. He’s a superior of yours and could become even more upset. However, this would not be cause for firing you, and if he did so, he could place himself in significant jeopardy. While he will no doubt not want to hear your observations, it’s high time he heard them, both for his sake and for yours.
6. Ask for information. You don’t know what is happening in his life that might help explain his behavior. Ask if there is anything you are doing that frustrates him. While not taking responsibility for his behavior, your inquiry shows a willingness to take feedback as well as give it. Begin an open dialogue. Extend kindness if there is something in his life that is troubling him. We know that “hurting people hurt people.”
7. If you truly fear for your job or repercussions, consider taking the matter to your Human Resources department, if you have one, or talking to one of the other attorneys. It is quite likely your company has a policies and procedures manual for how to deal with such issues. If not, it is time they did have a procedure for handling such issues and you may be the impetus for such changes to occur.
If you don’t feel safe enough to bring the issue up to him, consider taking a colleague with you to this meeting. It may be in your best interests to have another colleague present when you present your case to him. Take notes and stick to your well-rehearsed notes. Expect a positive outcome.
Are you having work conflicts? Do you find yourself facing the same issues, day in and day out, and are unsure of how to deal effectively with them? Please share your concerns with me at [email protected] and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on Dr. David Hawkin's website, www.yourrelationshipdoctor.com.
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