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Trying but not getting along with a colleague

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in Workplace Communication

Q. I’m having trouble working with a colleague, who like me is a project manager. I try to foster a good working relationship, but she doesn’t try in return. I easily irritate her just by being me. When I am absentminded, for example, she takes it personally, as if I did the blunder on purpose! My boss asked me how I perceive getting along with her, and I said I have nothing against her. Recently, I talked to her about her children, and she became totally cooperative. What more can I do to add to my favor bank?

A. It sounds like you’re giving a lot of thought to getting along with your colleague. That’s fine, but don’t overdo it. When you write that you “easily irritate her just by being me,” that’s a red flag. It indicates you’re too preoccupied with how she perceives you. It’s one thing to make a good-faith effort to get along with a co-worker. It’s another matter if you try to overhaul your personality or behavior, or get too caught up in deposits and withdrawals from your favor bank. You need to feel comfortable expressing yourself.

Here’s a sensible step. Get a neutral third party to administer this exercise: Ask your colleague to write the three things she likes and dislikes most about your work performance and work-related behavior. You do the same about her. Then, the moderator/facilitator can discuss your responses in private and coach each of you to commit to working together better.

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