We’ve all had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with people that we do not like. It’s not necessarily them, or maybe it is, but their personality doesn’t fit yours or your taste in people. That’s fine, as long as you weren’t a d**k about it. During university days, campus was big enough to be able to avoid the people you didn’t like, and to not have work with them on projects. However as soon as you land your first job, you realise you have no choice but to work with people from very different walks of life to you, and some of these people won’t be to your taste. You can’t exactly choose your colleagues, and quitting is a bit too extreme, so how can you be sure to keep the peace at work?
1. Avoid taboo subjects
As a rule of thumb, unless you know someone or a group really well, don’t bring up taboo subjects. You have no idea what peoples’ lives have or haven’t involved, and what might upset, offend or anger them. You might think that your view on the subject is unanimous, but it’s not okay to assume, especially within the workplace.
2. Listen… and show it!
Learn to listen properly: and then practise by looking engaged, prying your eyes away from your phone screen and asking questions! If it’s a culture, tradition or even just a topic you don’t know much about, try to seem interested – you might even learn something! Plus, if you take more interest in your colleagues, you’re more likely to be appreciated in return and be valued as a team member.
3. Learn from past mistakes
If you’ve witnessed someone making a comment that upsets a colleague or you have done so yourself in the past, take note. Hopefully you wouldn’t be making upsetting comments anyway, but even if it’s an honest mistake, be aware that at least one person in the office could be offended by certain comments. Think before you say something, and perhaps next time, just don’t mention it.
4. Understand there’s a time and place for a debate
A work debate is just a glorified argument, and while discussing opinions in an openminded manner is great, most arguments do not take this tone. In light of this, keep the debatable topics to Friday night at the pub as opposed to a Monday lunchtime when everyone is already feeling rubbish.
5. Don’t be too proud to apologise
You might think that your view is gospel, even if someone is offended or annoyed by what you’ve said, but don’t let your pride get in the way of an apology. Do you really need to be right all the time? Isn’t it easier to just let it go and move on, with very little collateral damage? “Let’s just agree to disagree” will come in handy for situations like this.
6. And if there’s tension…
Now, workplace bullying is not something to take lightly and if you feel victimised, speak to a manager. However, if some tension has simply grown between yourself and another member of the team, you have two options: ‘get over it’ or laugh it off. Which strategy you choose should be dependent on what your future relationship with the colleague needs to be like, and the type of person you are. I’m very non-confrontational, so when I was upset by what someone said once I chose to simply move past it for the sake of having to work together. If you’re feeling brave, bring it up by the kettle one day and laugh about it together (hopefully). If not, just let it pass. They’ve probably already forgotten about it.