My Grandma Alkie freely shared her wisdom and life lessons with us as we were growing up. Although she never worked in a corporate setting, her lessons served me well, even there.
One of her favorite lessons was: “Every shut eye ain’t sleep and every good-bye ain’t gone”. This was a lesson shared with my sister and me to make sure we didn’t try to get slick with the men in our lives. That lesson has served me well personally and doubly well professionally. Never underestimate anyone. Someone is always listening and looking. Just when you think you’ve gotten rid of someone, they circle back and appear again!
This is particularly true when it comes to difficult bosses and co-workers. I am trying to be my most politically correct when I use the term “difficult”. Actually, I mean those who are pains in the butt. Those who are insecure and/or incompetent. The ones easily threatened and in need of being worshipped. Especially with those, you must remember – “Every good-bye ain’t gone”.
I once had a very incompetent, but well connected boss. We were like water and oil. No matter how hard I tried to mix with his agenda (because he was the boss), we would eventually be on different pages. Separated, like oil and water. I was so very happy when he got promoted. Promoted away from me! Good-bye and good riddance. But not so fast.
I got promoted, into his department, working for him again! “Every good-bye ain’t gone”.
Here are a few tips to help you cope if you are in an “oil and water” situation with someone at work. These may come in handy because as long as you’re working, you cannot control when your path will cross, and cross again, with those you find difficult.
- DO NOT TAKE THE SITUATION PERSONALLY. This is perhaps the most challenging thing you must do. Observe and listen. Chances are, others have the same difficulties with the person as you do. While this may not help you feel better, it will at least give you perspective.
- AVOID MAKING IT A CONTEST with winners and losers. If he or she is the boss, you will most likely lose.
- FOCUS ON THEIR BUSINESS AGENDA. What are the things you can agree with, buy into, or support. However small an item that might be, do it 100% with all the zest you can muster.
- Make sure you DO YOUR PART TO KEEP THE OIL AND WATER MIXED!
Something I said earlier is worth repeating, perhaps in a different way. In life, we cannot control when our paths will cross, and cross again, with individuals we find difficult or adversarial. All we can do is control our reactions to those circumstances. As we grow our self-discipline, so we grow influence over the course of our lives and our careers.