Whether it’s the guy who interrupts every meeting with his blustering complaints or the gal who stomps around the office for no apparent reason, it’s no fun dealing with a crabby co-worker. In fact even the calmest employee has been known to lose his cool once in a while when having to contend with the antics of a sourpuss in the workplace.
The easy assumption in such situations is that the Grumpy Gus you’re up against is purposefully wreaking havoc just to needle you. That may be true in some instances, but such an explanation is more the exception than the rule. Consider these surprising things about your coworker that will help you deal more effectively with his irritability.
1) He’s not out to get you. It sure feels like he’s campaigning to get you fired, publicly embarrass you, or wants to take credit for your hard work, but the truth is you shouldn’t take his nit-picking personally. He’s not interested in taking anything away from you, per se; he’s really just interested in gaining something for himself. Use open-ended questions to figure out what it is he’s trying to achieve so you can help him redirect his poor attitude in a way that will help him accomplish his goals.
2) Other people like him. Yes, someone out there loves him. He happily participates in interests and hobbies with family and friends where he’s actually kind to other people. Try seeing the whole person instead of the small slice of negativity he gives you on a daily basis. Doing so will make it easier to show him a little compassion, which can make even the most icy of peers melt. A well-placed greeting or question about his family will have him looking at you as an ally rather than an enemy.
3) He could add value to your career goals. It may be hard to fathom, but it’s quite possible that he could actually have an idea or two about how you might take the next step in your career or how you might complete your current project with an ingenious twist that’ll get you noticed. Only looking to your buddies for feedback and advice could be a mistake. The office grouch may have a shorter fuse with what you think are new ideas simply because he’s “been there, done that.” You won’t know unless you ask, and you just might learn a thing or two in the process.
4) He has bad days, too. Assuming that he never gets up on the wrong side of the bed, doesn’t know what it’s like to have a bad hair day, or never becomes frustrated with a weight loss program puts your cranky co-worker into a superhuman category. And, you know he’s not super human, so cut him a little slack. Perhaps there are bigger issues like healthcare, family problems and financial worries that have him seeing the problems at work as minor. His poor behavior may be temporary, so it’s okay to treat it as such.
5) He may be surprised at how his actions impact you. Taking a few minutes to have a well-intentioned conversation with Mr. Crabapple could change everything. Privately asking if you’ve done something to offend him is a great way to open a discussion about his tone, body language, or approach. He could believe that he’s coming across as someone who takes his job seriously when, in fact, you’re interpreting his lack of a smile as a personal slight. He’ll appreciate a gentle and sincere approach to what otherwise could be a contentious and defensive debate.