Should you try to rescue an abrasive co-worker? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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Should you try to rescue an abrasive co-worker?

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Question: "I have a co-worker who is good at her job but keeps getting in her own way with her many personality quirks. She just comes off as insecure, untrusting, high-maintenance and loud. Little by little the team is abandoning her in subtle ways. I'd like to know if I should help her merely by being patient and loyal, or if it would really be better to explain to her why exactly it is that she has so few allies left. And how would I even do that?" - Morgan, Laboratory Services Specialist

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark March 1, 2017 at 11:19 am

As many have commented, I agree that you should first ask her if she is open to you discussing your observations. Many people will become automatically defensive if it is not handled properly. If they give the okay, then I’d proceed with helpful feedback. It might make all the difference in the world. I’ll use myself as an example. I am by nature not a people person at work, I value my privacy and don’t talk much at all about my personal life. That means I don’t, or I should say, DIDN’T ask co-workers about their lives or their weekend/holiday activities, etc. It took someone sharing observations with me to realize this was putting a wall between me and co-workers and was alienating them. It was suggested that I follow the “fake it until you can make it” approach, where I pretended to care about what was going on in their lives until I actually did care, and it worked! Others have commented that I show a lot more interest in them than I did before. I still don’t talk about my life outside of work much except for my pets and the animal rescue groups I am with, and everyone is okay with that. They respect my privacy, but appreciate that I regularly share an interest in their lives. This never would have happened without helpful feedback.

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Rose Clavet February 24, 2017 at 2:08 pm

I think it’s important to share with colleagues, but it needs to be done in a possitive way. We spend so much time at work, it’s important to help everyone have a positive experience. My suggestion would be to say something like ” I really admire how you organize your desk and get work done”. I wondered if you would be open to some feedback that I feel would help you. If the person saids “no thanks” then “no thanks” it is. If they are open to coaching, then got for it. Hope this helps. Cheers, Rose

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Leisa February 23, 2017 at 5:24 pm

Quirky personalities can be tricky, and losing allies is the opposite of success for administrative professionals. I had a similar coworker on my team that I wanted to help improve her reputation, so I took a multi-pronged approach. Here are my suggestions: 1) Kindly ask them if they are willing to receive feedback about your observations. They may not be open to it, and that is their choice. No point of taking their unwillingness personally; 2) Talk to their supervisor confidentially about your observations; and ask how you can be supportive of the situation; 3) Find professional development articles targeted that could benefit this specific coworker and share with your entire team. Sharing information broadly with other administrative professionals in your workplace will help more people and not make anyone feel singled out. You can share additional articles about other topics in the future so it is not obvious that you are intentionally targeting one person about a specific issue.

Best wishes to you, Morgan! I see coaching, mentoring, and possibly supervising in your future. Keep being the change you wish to see in the world. We need more of you!

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Paula February 23, 2017 at 4:53 pm

I always appreciate a coachable moment from a trusted co-worker. If you feel you have that level of relationship with her, then by all means help her out. If she’s open to it, it will help her not only in this area, but most likely in other areas as well. If she’s not open to it, then she will continue to drive people away but at least you will know that you tried to help her.

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Penelope February 23, 2017 at 4:50 pm

First of all, it shows that you have a good heart to care about your co worker. I used to work with something like that, she had no idea that most people didn’t like her. I wanted to talk to her, but she was easily offended by other comments. She had no problem saying offending or doing offending things, but didn’t understand when it was happening to her. If this person is reasonable, then maybe you can talk to her about it. But like DeeDee mentioned, you have to be careful about not getting yourself in the big middle of something.

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Kimberly February 23, 2017 at 4:42 pm

My thought is to have a brief conversation letting her know you have heard/observed some things, and if she would like some feedback, you would be happy to share some thoughts (in the vein of helpfulness, not criticism). If she asks for feedback, keep it short and factual, then finish with you are there for her. Whatever you decide to do, I hope it goes well!

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DeeDee February 23, 2017 at 4:21 pm

If you are good friends and she is willing to take unsolicited feedback, go ahead and help her out. But if there is a possibility that you could end up on the wrong end of the dagger, then I would leave that “help” up to her supervisor.

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