Posted by Robert Half on 08 October 2014
Work is usually stressful enough without having to deal with hostile coworkers. And while it is too much to expect to be extremely popular at work and be best friends with everyone, it’s best to ensure you remain on cordial terms with your colleagues - if only so they don’t make it harder for you to get things done.
If you are finding it challenging to deal with hostile coworkers, try the following strategies to improve your relationships without affecting your standard of work.
Ask yourself if you’re unwittingly doing anything to exacerbate the situation while taking into account your particular work culture. In a predominantly Asian work environment for instance, being outspoken or speaking out of turn may not be looked kindly upon. So if you’re used to speaking your mind, you might need to rein it in or learn to catch opportune moments to offer your opinion. Sometimes, it’s all about giving yourself a bit of time to adapt to a new or different work culture.
Remain polite but firm
Working with less-than-friendly colleagues will test your patience, but the worst thing you can do is to retaliate with hostility. Instead, ensure that you speak with an even, polite tone at all times so the situation doesn’t escalate. At the very least, you can’t be accused of losing your cool when things go south.
However, you need to balance this politeness with firmness to let people know you’re serious about getting things done. Rather than phrasing requests as a question (“Would it be possible for you to…”), try using non-negotiable statements such as, “My report is due by the end of this week, so it’d be much appreciated if you could get the relevant figures to me by the end of tomorrow.”
Don’t take it personally
For many people, change can be immensely stressful and bewildering. It could be that your colleagues already have an established “clique” and aren’t quite sure how to react when a new person (you!) joins their team. Their unfriendly demeanour could be a result of them reacting to the situation rather than you as a person, so try not to take it personally if they don’t take to you immediately. It might take them a little while to come to terms with the fact that you won’t pose a “threat” to them or their positions within the company.
Bring a "peace offering"
No, you don’t have to go out of your way or bend over backwards to win them over. This won’t just drain your energy, but it may also have the opposite effect on hostile coworkers, making them suspicious about your intentions. However, little gestures such as buying breakfast or coffee for your colleagues every once in a while will go a long way in showing that you’re sincere about establishing a good working relationship with your team.
If you believe a coworker is going above and beyond to make your life a misery and there is no apparent solution, the next step would be to seek counsel from either a manager you report to or your HR department. Asking for guidance, or if necessary, formally reporting the issue is a step to take to ensure the situation is recognised and dealt with.
Turning hostile coworkers into friendly colleagues
Nobody wants to work in a company that has a toxic workplace culture. When it comes to dealing with hostile coworkers, “fighting fire with fire” is never a good idea. Often it causes even more work stress. Instead, employing a professional and polite approach will present you on more neutral ground, allowing your coworkers to take their time to get to know you better, so you can get on with your job.