Workplace Dynamics

Navigating the workspace

Every office has a particular set of workplace dynamics—some workplace dynamics can be especially tricky to maneuver. Part of Adulting is learning how to deal with new and challenging situations at work. Finding ways to cope with negativity in the workplace is a great exercise in continuing to do your best work while simultaneously enjoying your job. Here are some strategies for staying afloat and navigating the choppy waters of the workplace.

DEALING WITH NEGATIVITY

Do you have a co-worker who seems to always have a black cloud hanging over their head? Negative people can drain the energy in the room. They’ll complain about anything when given a chance: the weather, their personal life, the vending machine, their pen collection, you name it. Business coach Rachel Ritlop recommends that if you have to deal with a negative co-worker, “try to limit your interactions with the person during your ‘low energy’ time of day.” For example, if you’ve just wrapped up a grueling meeting or hit a mid-afternoon caffeine slump, avoid this person. Do your best to stay away from people and situations that bring you down.

AVOIDING GOSSIP

Office gossip can infect a workplace and create a nervous and hostile environment. Do you have a particular co-worker that tends to fuel gossip or crank the office rumor mill? They stalk everybody on social media and spend a little too much time in the break room. You always have to be on high alert when you’re around them because you never know how your words may be misconstrued to another co-worker or even your boss later. The best advice for dealing with an office gossip is to simply not engage with them. Ritlop explains, “by listening, you are cosigning the behavior and putting a target on your forehead for future gossip.”

HANDLING COMPETITION

Competition can bring out the best and worst in people. While some succeed with a healthy dose of competition, others take it too far. Try to protect yourself from co-workers that tend to be overly competitive in the office. Some people are desperate to climb the corporate ladder, and they don’t care how they get there as long as they get to the top. Don’t let them get to you, though. Ritlop advises, “Stop comparing the hours you spend in the chair and focus on building a quality relationship with your boss and clients/customers.” Just because they are the first one in and the last one out, does not mean they are a better or a harder worker than you. Focus on your performance and the quality of your work.

Focus on your performance and the quality of your work.

IMPROVING THE ATMOSPHERE

If your workplace dynamics are less than ideal, try to do what you can to improve them:

  • Positive energy can be contagious, so if you’re exuding good vibes, your co-workers will catch on. Try to find silver linings in any challenging situation and approach new tasks optimistically and enthusiastically.
  • Consider others’ perspectives when dealing with conflict or hurt feelings. Even if your co-worker is difficult, it can sometimes be best to swallow your pride. The more you try to see things from their point of view, the stronger your relationship with them will become.1
  • Don’t underestimate the value of good manners. Please and Thank You’s can go a long way.
  • Pay attention to body language. Always read the room and notice how people may be saying way more with nonverbal cues rather than with their actual words. If a co-worker or boss isn’t giving you eye contact or they have their arms crossed, steer clear of engaging. Wait until they seem more present and willing to communicate.
  • It’s all about communication. Keep the channels between you and your co-workers and supervisors open so that everybody feels heard and is on the same page. That way, when conflict arises, it can be handled and resolved quickly.

Remember that your voice does have value and you were hired for a reason. If you have confidence in yourself, you’ll find tricky workplace dynamics easier to maneuver. Stay away from negativity and do what you can to improve the vibes in your office if they aren’t as great as they could be. An office is a living, breathing organism so don’t stress out too much if the dynamics shift around a bit. You got this!

KEYS TO NAVIGATING WORKPLACE DYNAMICS

Steer clear of negativity

Speak up for yourself

Read situations and people before acting

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