There's an old saying: you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your relatives. It's also highly likely that you can't choose your coworkers, or peers, at work.
We spend eight or more hours a day at work in close quarters with little or no privacy. With work stress increasing and deadlines looming, unprofessional behavior can run rampant and do serious damage to company morale.
Here are some unprofessional workplace behaviors and how to deal with them.
The Loud Neighbor
This problem is familiar to anyone who works in a cubicle. They say walls have ears. Cubicles have bigger ears. What happens when you work in a cube next to someone who spends a lot of time talking on the telephone about their personal lives?
Solution: As uncomfortable as it may be, it's important to let the person know that you can hear every word of their personal conversations, and that they may want to take their conversations elsewhere. The person may be embarrassed enough to do that. If that doesn't work, you may need to speak to a manager about your concerns.
The Chronic Complainer
Nothing is ever good enough, and there are only problems, never solutions.
Solution: As a coworker, you can help the complainer identify solutions to problems, thus reducing their feeling of helplessness. Once they feel less helpless, their need to complain may diminish.
The Office Gossip
This person knows everything about everyone, and enjoys sharing it with anyone who will listen.
Solution: The next time an office gossip tells you something about someone else, ask them if they would say this directly to the other person. If they say "No," explain that if they can't say it to the person, it's not worth repeating. Often in work situations, you never know who is acquainted (or related) to whom, and the gossip could easily get back to the subject.
The Idea Stealer
The coworker who steals other peoples ideas and takes credit for them.
Solution: If you present an idea, make sure you document it with your name and a date (e-mail is an excellent tool for this). This way, the idea stealer has no recourse.
The Empty Promise-Maker
The person who agrees to do his or her part, does nothing, never follows through, leaving you to do his or her task.
Solution: Let the person know that you can no longer help them, and you have your own work to do. If this doesn't work, get management involved.
This is the coworker (or manager) who likes to put you down, ridicule you in front of others, and has a need to make you look bad. Most bullies are cowards with low self-esteem who need to put others down to make themselves look and feel good.
Solution: If it's a coworker doing the bullying, report it to management. In the case of a manager who's the bully, find out what the problem is and ask what you can do to make things better.
Remember if things get bad and neither your resolutions nor your boss' interventions are helping, the best thing to do is to cut your losses and find another, healthier position.
Cynthia Wright has 18 years of recruitment experience in both corporate and agency environments and currently is a Senior Corporate Recruiter with a large New Hampshire hardware re-seller. Cynthia has interviewed and hired hundreds of candidates in Engineering, Finance, Marketing, Sales, and Information Technology. She has written extensively for The Telegraph (Nashua, NH), is a contributing career expert for My Job Wave/The Employment Times, wrote a syndicated column with Knight Ridder's News2Use, continues to publish her columns nationally, and is the author of the book 366 Tips for a Successful Job Search (Rosstrum Publishing). Cynthia holds a BS degree from Rutgers University and a Masters Certificate in Human Resources and Labor Relations from Southern New Hampshire University. She can be reached at TheWrightStuffNH (at) gmail.com.