16 Difficult Office Situations and How to Deal With Them

office-dramaEditor’s note: Although some of these ideas may seem obvious, you are bound to find a helpful tip. This is a guest post from Katheryn Rivas

In order to maintain a high level of productivity, a positive work environment is absolutely essential. Although many aspects of the workplace are completely under your control, there will be occasions when you are essentially helpless, and the only control you have is how you REACT to a specific situation.

It is these occasions that typify what has been called “drama,” and by that, I mean the bad kind of drama.  While other types of drama–for example, the high school variety — can be fun in a guilty pleasure kind of way, nobody likes drama at work. It only causes problems and can eventually lead to you or someone else getting terminated. The following are 16 potential drama-causing work situations, and what you can do to effectively extinguish them.

Do you need to improve your culture at work? You should probably check out the first 6 modules of the Work Happy Now Emergency Kit. It has three main sections: how to create a more positive attitude, team building ideas, and games you can play with your co-workers so you can ensure communication improves.

1. A co-worker has the annoying habit of [blank] and you can’t stand it anymore.

Drama potential: Obsessively clicking pens. Playing music too loudly. Chewing gum like a cow munching on grass. They may seem like small habits, but they become unnerving when you have to put up with it all for eight hours or more on a daily basis. If you keep it all in, you may just lose it.

How to avoid: Before asking your co-worker to stop a certain behavior, make sure that you aren’t guilty of something as annoying yourself. Also, see what you can do block out the habit that annoys you. Invest in headphones, and try to focus on something else. If you really can’t put up with, then politely ask your co-worker to refrain. Tell them that you get easily distracted. Above all, be nice about it.

2. You suspect someone in the office is working against you.

Drama potential: Your paranoia gets the better of you. You’re put in defensive mode, and you begin actively working against the purported offender.

How to avoid: While there will always be the hyper-competitive co-worker, most people are not out to get you. Recognize that, and half the problem is gone. Dealing with the obnoxiously competitive worker can be accomplished by simply doing your assigned work the best you can. The only one who you are really competing against is yourself, and others will notice when you step up your work goals and accomplishments without stepping over others.

3. A co-worker tries to engage you in a heated religious or political conversation.

Drama potential: Politics and religion are almost always a big no-no in the workplace. Controversial conversations can quickly turn into animosity. Someone may feel offended and can rightfully complain to management.

How to avoid: Just don’t talk about religion or politics. If someone asks for your opinion, try to steer the conversation elsewhere, or laugh it off and say something neutral.

4. A co-worker or superior makes an inappropriate physical advance.

Drama potential: Similar to the broken office romance–but with potentially more nasty consequences–the unwanted pass can spawn gossip, discomfort, or even personal danger.

How to avoid: This situation needs to be dealt with early and quickly. Do not ignore sexual advances and assume that they will go away. First, tell the perpetrator–in private–that you aren’t interested, that you feel uncomfortable, and that you want his or her behavior to stop. Make sure he or she knows that you will file an official complaint if the behavior continues. This will almost always do the trick. If it’s your boss who’s doing it, consult with HR.

5. A co-worker incites you to participate in nasty office gossip.

Drama potential: Participating in gossip may be tempting, but it’s almost always ill-advised. The problem with gossip is its potential to hurt others’ feelings and lose others’ trust. When you participate in gossip, you run the risk of alienating the people with whom you work.

How to avoid: Stay away from notorious gossips. When someone tries to share office gossip with you, try changing the conversation, or simply tell them that you don’t like talking about others because you don’t like it when people talk about you.

6. Someone is stealing your food from the refrigerator.

Drama Potential: The stealing becomes habitual. You decide to let it slide. You go hungry and resentment builds. Confrontation ensues.

How to avoid: Put your food in some sort of container, and make sure to label it with your name. If it keeps happening, ask, in a non-accusatory manner, if anyone has seen your food items. This usually does the trick. If all else fails, you can always purchase a small personal fridge and keep it under your desk.

7. It’s the company Christmas party, and you want to enjoy yourself.

Drama potential: You have too much to drink, and you make a fool of yourself. You offend others, spill secrets, or act inappropriately or aggressively. You think letting loose during social events can’t hurt? Think again. An acquaintance of mine actually got fired after an embarrassing Christmas party incident. Don’t let that be you.

How to avoid: If you can’t hold your alcohol, simply don’t drink, or drink very slowly.

8. You need a break and want to surf the Internet.

Drama Potential: You begin using your personal e-mail, social networking sites, and other entertainment sites. Before you know it, you’re surfing as you would be surfing at home, sending profanity-filled messages, and watching inappropriate videos.

How to Avoid: Most employers understand the need to take a break, and it’s probably okay that your computer screen isn’t always reflecting your work assignments. Still, keep personal Internet surfing to a minimum. Don’t write emails that you wouldn’t read to the whole office. And whatever you do, keep it clean. Rule of thumb: If your grade school teacher would object, then it‘s not okay.

9. A supervisor entrusts you with a secret, and you gab to just one “trusted” friend.

Drama Potential: You tell one person, and you ask them not to tell anyone else. Of course, the person you told will do the same–tell one or two people, thinking the buck will stop there. Well, it never stops, and that’s how gossip gets so out-of-control in the first place. As with widespread gossip, telling one little secret has the potential to hurt others, perpetrate lies, and to make matters worse, you’ll lose your credibility.

How to avoid: If someone tells you something in private, assume it’s meant to be kept between you two. It may just be that a supervisor is letting you in to see how well he or she can trust you. Don’t blow it.

10.  You get romantically involved with someone else at work.

Drama potential: The happy couple breaks up, leaving the office environment tense. People feel forced to take sides, perhaps even harassment charges are filed.

How to avoid: Try your best not to get involved with someone at the office. If it does happen, then be professional about it. Hold off on the PDA until after 5. If your relationship dissolves, do not talk about it openly with others. Try to be civil during office hours. If you absolutely feel that you can‘t, ask a supervisor if you can be transferred to a different area of the office, where you won’t be confronted with the ex. While it can be difficult to deny an obvious attraction or connection with a co-worker, most office relationships are simply not worth the drama that they can cause.

11. Your boss overloads you with tasks that aren’t in your work description.

Drama potential: At first it starts out with little things, like “Do you mind doing [insert boss’s task here]?” Eventually, you become your boss’s slave.

How to avoid: Of course, most employees have a strong desire to please their superiors. But bosses aren’t perfect, and there’s nothing worse than having to take on two jobs but getting paid for only one. Sometimes, you just have to learn to say no. Meet with the boss to review your work description. If it becomes an ongoing problem, go to HR. (Karl’s note: I would also suggest a transfer to another department or looking for a new job. Some people just won’t change.)

12. You’re asked to work on a collaborative project with co-workers with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye.

Drama potential: Group projects can be trying because in order for a group to work effectively, there needs to be a good mix of leadership, people willing to take direction, and so on. Most of the time, groups aren’t formed on such a basis, so there will always be group members butting heads. Sometimes group disagreement can escalate to extreme levels.

How to avoid: If you know from beforehand that you cannot work with a certain co-worker, see if you can apportion certain tasks to each person, then meet only to put the separate parts of  the project together.

13. A very significant event occurred in your personal life.

Drama potential: You just got married. Of course, we want to share significant events with all of those who are close to us, and that includes people at work. But think before you speak–a small conversation communicating your excitement can easily turn in to an annoying fixation such that no one ever wants to hear you talk ever again.

How to avoid: Don’t become the annoyingly solipsistic loudmouth at work. Keep talk of your personal life to a minimum.

14. You’ve had an argument with a co-worker, and you know you’re right.

Drama potential: Even though you may be right all of the time, when there are unresolved issues among co-workers, everyone suffers. Refusing to apologize after an argument only keeps the cycle of workplace tension going.

How to avoid: Even if you are right, simply apologize. It is just as important to keep your boss happy as it is to be able to work well with your co-workers. Pride does not belong at work.

15. A colleague or supervisor is doing something wrong, and you want to complain to the company chief.

Drama potential: When something in the workplace is awry, sometimes your first instinct is to take your complaint to the top of the chain of command. Corporate hierarchy is the name of the game with most companies, so if you skip too many levels, you may end up aggravating many who work above you.

How to avoid: Make complaints only to your direct supervisor, and address your complaint as a “concern,” especially if the wrongdoing doesn’t directly involve you. If it is your supervisor who’s at fault, then talk only to his direct supervisor.

16. Work is tough, and you have a desire to vent.

Drama potential: What starts out as innocent venting about the trials of work can turn into full-blown complaining. A constant whiner will not only get a bad reputation at work, but he will also  foster a very negative work environment. This slows productivity. And people will eventually have only you to complain about.

How to deal with it: While there’s always a need to vent about your boss, or about your work assignments, don’t take it too far. Complain constructively.

Your Turn

What is one difficult situation have you been in and how did you deal with it?

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of online universities accredited .  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: katherynrivas87 (AT) gmail (DOT) com.

* Join over 2,100 people who have already subscribed to the FREE Happy at Work 10 Week eCourse. It will arrive in your inbox every Monday morning, when you need it the most. (Sign up is in the top left corner)

* Lance of the Jungle of Life and Katie of the Levity Project have posted the car dancing video. It’s a montage of a whole bunch of people getting jiggy with it in their car. FYI – Both links go to the same video.

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Image courtesy of meddygarnet

Hard, Fun and Beautiful – Blasting Heater Edition

atlas-HFB-small-border-2Where we are free to talk about the hard, the fun, and the beautiful of our work week. The best way to learn from our experiences is to step back, be honest, and reflect on pain and joy of our work week.

Ahh time. Why do I view time as such a fickle substance?

I’m in one meeting where the time globs by, slowly burning me as each second passes.

There are other days when I look up and it’s 4 pm and I feel like I’ve been gliding on a big fluffy lazy chair made out of clouds that hug my body just right.

I had the extreme of both cases this weekend.

Let me explain…

Hard

Sludge time.

Time is a very important substance to me, except when I’m being tortured by it. 😉

I was lost for what direction to take my business. I want to help people with their careers (motivation, productivity, self knowledge, etc), but I also want to help small businesses and managers. I felt like my articles in the leadership/business culture were getting lost in the shuffle.

I felt lost and time dripped by. I wasn’t able to take action when I felt in limbo.

That’s why I created my How can I help you in 2010 post.

I’ve come to a conclusion that I will share with all of you very soon.

Please feel free to fill out the survey if you have a chance. Click here to help me do a better job of helping you.

Fun

Writing an amazing article that resonated with my soul.

The words were pouring out of me. Time has no meaning.

I have no idea where all the words came from, but it felt like the universe opened up a portal in my brain and just poured all this goodness in. The words poured out from my fingers into my computer.

It’s a magical feeling that doesn’t happen very often, so I enjoy it tremendously when it does.

Beautiful

The heater in my office.

We had a cold bitter day and I had just come in from outside. I felt my fingers and cheeks tingle as they warmed up.

I never really took the time to just sit and feel this sensations for a minute. It was a really cool 1 minute bliss relaxation that I will write down after I’m done with this article.

I could feel the rush of blood going to these cold areas, regulating my body temperature. My body wasn’t able to do this outside. It was too busy trying to keep my core warm.

When I got back inside with the blasting heater, my extremities warmed back up. It was a beautiful reaction that I usually take for granted, but not this time.

What about you?

What has been hard, fun and beautiful in your life? I’ll see you in the comment section.

* Want to be able to Kick Butt at Work and Be Happy Too then check out my teleseminar on February 23rd to help you do amazing work that doesn’t stress you out. Click here to find out more details.

* Alexandra Levit’s blog Water Cooler Wisdom has a great article called Practice Good Karma at Work. You can probably guess how much I resonated with this piece.

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Hard, Fun and Beautiful – Calming Tea Edition

atlas-HFB-small-border-2Where we are free to talk about the hard, the fun, and the beautiful of our work week. The best way to learn from our experiences is to step back, be honest, and reflect on pain and joy of our work week.

Using my blog to meet amazing people has been a huge perk. I’ve interviewed Steve Pavlina (Personal Development Master), Jonathan Field (Career Renegade), Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos) and many others.

I’m saying this because I’m interviewing someone else that I’ve admired for a long time. She is an amazing writer and business woman. You’ll find out very soon. I can’t give it away yet. A little suspense is good for the soul.

Without all my hard work this never would have happened. None of these interactions would have happened.

We create our own luck. The harder we work, the more opportunities arise.

Let’s begin…
[Read more…]

Hard, Fun and Beautiful – Wrist Guard Edition

* Quick note: I’ve decided not to do a video this week. I want to create more value with my videos and that means figuring out how to make the videos more dynamic and interesting.

Where we are free to talk about the hard, the fun, and the beautiful of our work week.

My desk is a mess. I’ve been putting off my organization until tomorrow too many times. I’m not proud of this, but there always seems to be something else better to do.

My systems are breaking down.

Instead of doing what I know is right I’ve been choosing the easier route. This route is easy in the present moment, but harder in the long term.

I have to be more diligent about putting away that piece of paper instead of just throwing it on my desk. The hard part is figuring out how to stay motivated to do the little things.

You probably struggle with this too in some area of your life. Maybe you have trouble with exercising on a regular basis or getting up on time to get to work. Whatever your struggle with, it all comes down to connecting with what is right.

I’m creating next week’s theme from this week’s challenges. I want to simplify how I handle the information in my life, so that it’s easier to make the right choice. When I have a piece of paper in my hand, instead of just placing it on my desk, I will connect with the pain that lies ahead (what happens if I don’t do the simple task of organizing now), so it motivates me to be more organized.

You should also think about how you can adjust to a daily challenge in your life. How can you find a way to connect with what is right instead of choosing the easy way out?

Alright let’s begin…
[Read more…]

4 Techniques to Help You Deal With a Difficult Boss

difficult-bossEditor’s Note: This is a guest post from Adrienne Carlson.

If life could be split into two general parts, work would take up one compartment and personal life the other. While we tend to put our personal relationships on a higher rung, work too is significant in the larger scheme of things because it puts food on our table and provides us with the money we need to lead a comfortable life.

So when your work life is not satisfactory, your personal life suffers too, because as much as we may try to keep the two like parallel lines that never meet, the fact is that they are like train tracks that tend to cross over and merge once in a while. So if you have the misfortune of working with a boss who is difficult, your work tensions may spill over into and ruin your personal life, which is why you must know how to deal with superiors who make your work life a heavy cross to bear.

A few ways to deal with a difficult boss are to:
[Read more…]

The Hard, The Fun, and The Beautiful – Puffy Smile Edition

(Can’t see the video? Then try watching it at Work Happy Now – The Hard, The Fun and The Beautiful – Puffy Smile Edition)

Where we are free to talk about the hard, the fun, and the beautiful of our work week.

Connecting with like minded people has been the theme of this week. So many people tell me to connect with others who are different than me. I know that it’s good to have different people in my network, but having like minded people has been more important.

I was on a teleconference this past week for a membership site. I talked about the importance of building your core foundation in order to be able to feel happiness more easily. The energy was high and I enjoyed the heck out of talking to new people.

It’s these connections help me feel at home wherever I go. Some people just make me feel loved. I love helping out people who make me feel that way.

Let’s begin…
[Read more…]

Hard Fun and The Beautiful – The Rain Edition


(Can’t see the video? Then try watching it at Work Happy Now – Hard Fun and The Beautiful – The Rain Edition)

Where we are free to talk about the hard, the fun, and the beautiful of our work week.

This week has been a doozie. Now that I’m looking back on my week and sharing it with you, they all seem like doozies. I guess that’s the magic of reflection. By putting a magnifier to life, I’m able to see the little nuances of work that are truly enjoyable.

I never thought that being overwhelmed by multi-tasking would be enjoyable. Of course it’s hard to deal with in the moment, but a few days later it’s quite funny.

Let’s begin:
[Read more…]