Some colleagues can be difficult to work with. They can overly criticise, undermine others, and are not trustworthy. I recently had an experience with a difficult colleague and I was really taken aback by it. It was aggressive and unnecessary. And it blindsided me. The emotions that I felt completely distracted me from the work that I was meant to be doing. I felt angry, disappointed, embarrassed, annoyed, dumbfounded, sad, and more. So how to deal with these types of situations at work?
First, acknowledge those feelings, no point ruining the rest of your day, week, evenings by trying to suppress these feelings and have them come out on innocent family or friends. Allow yourself to feel them. Talk to a friend if you can and rant. Or write them down or whatever works best for you.
Then (or at the same time) leave the office for a while to give yourself perspective. Take yourself out into the real world and preferably into nature. Listen, touch, smell, and feel the world outside of work. And remember to breathe. Breathe consciously, slowly, and deeply.
Now that you are calmer and initial feelings are gone, what is the truth of the situation? Be kind to yourself in this and remember all of the reasons that you are good at your job. (In fact, a key tool in your career box should be a collection of positive feedback that you have received in your career. If you don’t have this – start ASAP).
So one truth is that you are good at your job. Nobody is perfect – none of us wonder women are! – but we are all talented and bring our valuable, unique set of skills, perspectives, and experiences to our job. Remind yourself of yours.
Another truth may be that your colleague is probably lacking in self-confidence and are trying to make themselves look good by criticising you. Usually true. This is pretty sad, really. Maybe nobody gives them positive feedback? Or is kind to them at work? Added to this is the truth that what they did was aggressive, unnecessary, and unprofessional.
So our advice is to be the opposite, to lead in dignity, kindness, and professionalism. This means not reacting aggressively. A firm, kind, and brief response.
So how about something like “Thank you very much, X, for taking the time to point this out. I very much appreciate your feedback. Let’s discuss further in person.”
Above all here, don’t put yourself into the situation of being bullied by this person. Firstly, be kind to yourself. Keep a distance from negative, undermining colleagues and work with them as little as possible.
Photo courtesy of Mark Leslie
We Are All Wonder Women is an international movement for female conservation professionals to be inspired, connected, and empowered to create an authentic, fulfilling and happy career.