There are a number of challenging or negative personalities that many of us must manage at the workplace. Unfortunately, since we have little choice as to whom we work with, and can be deeply affected by them, it is wise to keep unhealthy people and situations at a healthy distance. As an analogy, I often tell my clients that they might cherish and respect the beauty and power of a lion, but would they voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way to pet or even feed a lion, whether it be caged or in a natural environment? Maintaining a healthy distance from someone or thing that negatively impacts you is a way to empower you to manage a somewhat mentally and emotionally toxic situation.
If you find yourself working in close or even distant quarters with an “unhealthy” personality–one who may bully, intimidate, or resort to negative feedback–which is likely to compromise productivity, one’s health, or work-ethic, consider the following:
- Acknowledge that you are unable to control anyone other than yourself.
- Discipline and control your own internal reactions and behaviors. Avoid blame or discussion of the negative interaction with others unless it is resolution-based to help keep your own negative, inflammatory, or unresolved emotions in-check.
- Consider how often you allow the entanglement, instead of setting healthy boundaries around it. Internal boundaries and the resolve to stick with them are necessary to healthy interactions.
- If possible, limit conversations to clear, but brief and concise, emails. Limit direct interaction as negative energy is contagious. Stick to the agenda at hand, present facts, and maintain a positive, if not neutral, attitude.
- Ask yourself how much control unhealthy people have over your self-worth or value and why? Recognize issues related to your own self-worth and beliefs, and work on re-building your confidence.
- Take the higher ground, especially if it is your boss or a higher up. If you are being criticized or bullied, keep a paper trail, and set up a meeting with your human resources department.
- Find healthy ways to productively release negative energy from your mind and body. Establish an exercise routine, meditate, or work in support groups to help you center and maintain focus.
- If you have tried everything possible to maintain a healthy distance from the unhealthy people or situations, but still find that your work environment is taking a toll on you, consider if there is another work environment that is better suited for your personality.
We all must work with people we’d choose not to be with, but if these patterns become abusive or detrimental to your health, then it is your responsibility to take control over your own happiness and well being.
When people don't get along at the office, no one wins. Improve your company's communication and morale with these AMA resources and seminars.