How to Get Along With Difficult Co-workers, The Advocate


Greenwich author's new book tells how to get along with difficult co-workers

By Julie Fishman-Lapin
Staff Writer 
November 11, 2005
Chances are that at some point during your career you'll find yourself working with an abusive boss, a toxic co-worker or a frustrating subordinate.

Workplace relationships can certainly be complex, ranging from dramatic feuding to quiet resentment that rarely leaves the cubicle.

But it doesn't have to be that way, says best-selling author Julie Jansen, the Stamford-based career coach who has parlayed her experience working with some of the nation's top executives onto her newest book, "You Want Me to Work with Who? Eleven Keys to a Stress-Free, Satisfying and Successful Wok Life No Matter Who You Work With" (Penguin Books, $14).

This is her first book since " I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This: A Step-by-step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work," which is in its 12th printing and helped catapult Jansen's career as a national speaker, career coach and corporate trainer.

"So many people I meet through my work and travels say, 'I would love my job if it wasn't for these other people,'" said Jansen, a Greenwich resident. Her book hits stores at the beginning of next year.

One of the biggest causes of workplace stress is the inability of co-workers to get along with each other, she said.

Though it's easy to pass the blame when dealing with a difficult colleague, Jansen said the book's overall theme is that "it's up to you to get along with others."

Jansen offers readers 11 key characteristics to help manage relationships -- confidence, curiosity, decisiveness, empathy, flexibility, humor, intelligence, optimism, perseverance, respect, and self-awareness. She devotes a chapter to each, giving tips on how to deal with people who lack one or several of these characteristics, as well as providing self-assessment exercises to help people recognize their own weaknesses.

"Relationships are about two people, they are never just one-sided," she said. "The better person you are, the better able you will be to deal with difficult people."

Jansen tackles topics ranging from workplace bullies to the co-worker who doesn't know how to make a decision.

"People are looking for tactical, practical, what-do-I-do-exactly kind of advice," she said. And in an effort to do that, Jansen gives readers actual scripts on how to deal with peers, subordinates and the boss.

"You can't deal with a difficult boss who is inflexible the same way you deal with a peer," she said.

On the matter of inflexibility, Jansen writes that a peer should document each time a co-worker is inflexible, then schedule a meeting to discuss how the behavior affects the work relationship. The same issue with a subordinate means giving that employee constructive feedback about how behavior interferes with business.

The more difficult conversation is the one with an inflexible boss. Jansen recommends not arguing with a senior manager, but instead compliment him and ask if he'd be interested in hearing some new ideas in the future.

"An inflexible person is very interested in being in control of a situation, so it's imperative not to make him feel as if his control is slipping," Jansen writes.

Dealing with challenging workplace relationships is the new hot topic, said Stephen Viscusi, host of the nationally syndicated radio call-in show "On the Job," and author of a book by the same name.

"You go to work and it used to be that people would just complain about their boss, now it's about their co-workers," Viscusi said.

People are annoyed about everything from co-worker taking credit for projects they didn't do to the guy in the next cubicle who has an annoying cell phone ring.

"I tell people when it is a peer, I really think it's important to be direct and to share your feelings immediately," he said. "It happens to be the easiest problem in the workforce to confront. People don't realize it is as simple as opening up your mouth when you are dealing with someone who is an equal or a subordinate."

Copyright © 2005, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc