–written June 21, 2020
According to a Forbes article on demotivation at work, two major causes of job dissatisfaction are unpleasant or incompetent bosses and unpleasant co-workers (1). I have certainly found that to be the case for many people I have encountered that have worked for various companies. It is true that we cannot change other people’s behaviors or hearts. However, in my career in retail sales, I have learned these things about how to get along with a manager or co-worker that was difficult:
- Realize you cannot change a person’s heart towards you, work, or anyone or anything else.—I had a manager (see also:What I Learned From My Manager) who I had such a tough time dealing with that I used to pray to God every day for 1 1/2 years for our relationship to get better, not thinking God would actually really do anything to fix our work relationship. Finally, things got so bad, that I was full of wrath and anxiety when, on my day off, I walked into church for bible study! I wasn’t even thinking about God or church. I was consumed with both fear and anger of my manager. However, after my pastor at the time counseled me through the situation I had with my manager, I had an epiphany: I realized that I had spent so much time trying to change my manager, that I failed to look in the mirror and examine the things in my heart that I needed to change! Once I realized that I couldn’t change my manager’s heart, I began to shift into a more positive attitude towards him and I became free of my bitterness and anger that I had held inside for so long! When he left the company, I was on such good terms with him that we considered each other friends! I had a co-worker that I had a really tough time dealing with also, but once I realized that I couldn’t change them (or get rid of them), I became more patient and friendlier towards them. So I learned to not try to force someone to change their behavior by being vengeful or venting my anger towards 20 or so other people. You need to accept that you cannot change that person’s heart, and that only God can change them.
- Be intentionally kind to the person with whom you are having difficulties. –Yes, this is completely against our human nature, but it is what Jesus would do. When I was having difficulties with my aforementioned manager, I realized that he was working very hard and not having enough time to eat adequately, so I shared some of my food with him. I am not mentioning this to pat myself on my back (after all, I was also the same person who treated him before with malice and contempt), but to illustrate how being intentionally kind can change one’s attitude towards another. This is why pastors advise their congregants to pray a blessing on a person whom they view to be “difficult” or the “enemy”. Other ways to be intentionally kind to someone who is difficult to get along with is to help them with their work when you see them struggling, compliment them in a genuine way about how they are working or if you see an improvement in some aspect of their attitude, and saying “thank you” if they do something nice for you that you do not expect of them.
- Avoid gossiping about the person with whom you are having difficulties. –Most people have gossiped about someone that they did not like and with whom they were having difficulties. I think most of the problems that I have had would have been avoided if I did not “vent” about these people with whom I thought were “difficult” to other coworkers and managers, and I instead talked gracefully towards the person directly. However, fear, coupled with my prideful attitude towards the situation prevented me from talking to that person directly. If someone else gossips to you about a person that they are having difficulties with, a good question to ask them is, “Have you talked to that person [with whom you are having difficulties] about this?” If they haven’t, tell them to either talk to them directly or a manager if they are having fears about confronting that person alone. Remember, it is gossip if the person you are talking to about the situation is not part of the solution or problem.
My pastor talked about showing grace to others today, especially in this chaotic time we are in these days. When we realize we can’t change anyone’s heart by ourselves, when we are intentionally kind to others, even our enemies, and if we avoiding gossiping about co-workers and bosses we don’t like, we will not only be able to show more grace at work, we will receive the same as well.
- Hedges, Kristi. (2014). 8 Common Causes of Workplace Demotivation. Forbes. Retrieved 21 June 2020, from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2014/01/20/8-common-causes-of-workplace-demotivation/#3f8ad46b42c6.