Recurring Issues with People
June 6, 2014 10:59 PM   Subscribe

I keep having recurring problems with people at work sometimes, personal issues, what can I do, and how can I prevent this from happening? It's really just bad energy.

I seem to keep having recurring issues with the same people I work with over, and over. Things always come up, or its something or the other. I don't know why. I cant ever remember this happening in the past, and to be completely honest, I feel I have always gotten along with everyone well in group projects, working together, and figuring things out. I don't know why these issues keep coming up, and where they are stemming from. It's absurd and it's little bickering about small issues that kind of keep coming back for more.

I know I am being very vague about things, but I can feel it, and it's just bad energy. I can feel it in the air, it is an immediate, the tension is in the air.

What can I do to resolve the tension, break the ice, make things more comfortable. Since there clearly a disconnect.

I do my best to be a genuinely nice guy, but for some reason have become reserved, a little bit shy, and slightly socially awkward.

Any help, advice, guidance, or tips, would be strongly, strongly appreciated!

Thanks everyone!
posted by wak5700 to Human Relations (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
One of the best pieces of general advice I've ever received, is:

Assume that other people like you, and act accordingly.

In a very general sense, this means that you approach your interactions with other people as if they are 'on your side'. You don't have kid yourself that they want to be your personal friend, it's not that kind of liking, you just have to assume a general feeling of goodwill.

When everyone is working long hours, forced together in close proximity, it can be easy to fall into a 'me and them' mentality. But really, you are each other's allies in the whole endeavour, no? You all basically want the same thing, which is to get the job done as efficiently and pleasantly as possible. It's easy to fall into the trap of subtly regarding people as your enemies, rather than as your co-conspirators.

It sounds trite, I know, but it has helped me diffuse my natural defensiveness to approach people this way. I find myself going through life feeling less prickly, somehow, and that seems to get reflected back.
posted by Salamander at 11:13 PM on June 6, 2014 [40 favorites]

Hey that's really good advice man, I really like that approach. I think that might be a root cause of the problem and may be where my defensiveness might be coming up. I went through a really rough time working in Manhattan, and I think I did develop that negative attitude and mentality that for some reason, people didn't like me (I think I was also socially abused to a certain extent). I think that's a really great start, and that could be a real root to the issues to some of the problems I may have been facing and in tune with my own insecurities.

Thanks for the advice, I think that's a great place to start. Really, Thank you and I will let you know how it goes!
posted by wak5700 at 11:18 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, this may or may not be applicable to you because as you note, it's just a weird vibe, so I apologize if I'm off base here.

When I've hired new teachers who aren't a good fit, yes, the energy does get weird and slightly hostile when they enter the larger group and it's usually because of a combination of these things they're doing:

* they have odd social boundaries in that they talk about themselves too often. Whether they're talking about their personal lives or detailing how they've problem-solved, the emphasis is just too much on them;

* they often speak negatively about some onerous task that pretty much everyone has to do. Like, we all have to write term progress reports; they're a pain in the ass but we all have to do them, so please just shut up and do them like you're expected to;

* they often complain about mostly everything. So, say we have an established plan for how staff communicates about X issue; this person has to complain about how the system could be improved, BUT THEY HAVE NO PLANS FOR HOW THIS CHANGE COULD HAPPEN; or conversely;

* they have IDEAS for how everything could be done faster/more efficiently and the staff is like, "We get it. You have ideas. But maybe we've tried some of your ideas and they didn't work."

* they struggle with established patterns and routines and often need help doing pretty basic tasks;

* they charge ahead with their plans and ideas which differ from how the organization works and then say, "Nobody TOLD ME that's how you do things here;"

* they nitpick ideas when it doesn't really matter. So, we've written an annual report and everyone's put their best into it and at a meeting, this person has a whole bunch of nitpicking suggestions about font and the header and paper stock.

What it really boils down to, in my experience anyway, is when people get pushed away by the larger group it's because they don't listen to their co-workers. They always have either an implied arrogance or overt helplessness that sort of drives everyone crazy.
posted by kinetic at 5:51 AM on June 7, 2014 [47 favorites]

If I could favorite kinetic a million times I totally would. I've seen the exact same thing.

But one other way to approach this, if you haven't already, is to observe how people who are getting along with people who you've been having issues with are, well, getting along with them. Is everyone having problems with these people? If not - what topics are they talking about? How do they approach each other? I'm wondering how it went/how it would go, if you tried similar topics/approaches?
posted by anitanita at 6:55 AM on June 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ask people for help with things. It seems kind of counter-intuitive, because you'd think people would like someone who helps them, but I've found if I consider someone an expert and turn to them so they can let me know how to do something, they really like it.
posted by xingcat at 7:50 AM on June 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I was coming in here to say: Don't complain. My advice may not pertain.

What I've learned: The reason we get a paycheck is because it's work. I've learned to stop complaining (I rarely complained at work but at home). Every day at work I think of my professionalism. It's not professional to complain. Everyone is replaceable. If I don't have a solution, I don't complain about it. I choose to stay positive, do my job, and mind my own business. I'm not preoccupied with what my coworkers are doing or not doing.

What can I do to resolve the tension, break the ice, make things more comfortable. Since there clearly a disconnect.

Listen more and talk less. Be as positive as possible without being phony and remember your professionalism at all times. Stay consistent and things will get better.
posted by Fairchild at 8:04 AM on June 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Ahh, kinetic is right, and it sucks because the "rules" of such things can really vary widely by environment. For example, I worked for many years in really disfunctional corporate retail where if you DIDN'T engage in tons of blatant self-promotion, comisseration and complaining, gossipy small-talk, and generally be part of the constant running in-joke of the organizations incompetence, you would be chewed up and spit out. So I developed some (totally unnatural to me) survival skills along these lines that, lo and behold, did not translate to other jobs and professional environments later on. Annoying indeed.

My brother had a similar problem where he thought he was "commiserating" with his new coworkers about slow software programs etc etc and it turned out they saw him as just a negative nancy and obnoxious drag (btw, my brother is a very bright engineer and very successful, and the programs WERE shitty; but objective truth is not always desired in these instances).

Granted these may not be your problems, there are a million ways to become subtly off-sync and unfortunately once you notice, you do tend to get defensive, and as the first commenter pointed out that defensiveness tends to start a self-reinforcement cycle where you're pushing people away with the preemptive fear of weirdness and therefore confirming your own fear. It's a hard hole not to get sucked into, especially when the signals you're seeing may actually be accurate, but your best bet is usually to take a deep breath, assume the best of everyone and go back each day fresh, being as positive and considerate as possible.
posted by celtalitha at 3:13 PM on June 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not all workplaces are alike. As I once did, you may have fallen in among some screwed up people who can't or don't want to curb their personality flaws. And if there are cliques, as there were in my dreadful job, it only makes matters worse.

What other commenters have said probably applies to offices without unstable, malicious and/or gossipy personalities, but if the interpersonal situation is dysfunctional as a result of a few bad seeds, there won't be much you can do to change it. Positive thinking can help, but it takes too much energy to keep up a shield if there are people in the office who thrive on negative energy.

Two risks are 1) thinking you're the problem and 2) staying isolated with your unhappiness. If you continue getting bad vibes, see a therapist with the aim of getting to the bottom of the problem and identifying ways of responding to it. It would be especially helpful for both of you if you'd take specific examples of interactions with coworkers that you found unsettling. Some employers have employee assistance programs that will let you see an independent therapist for free or for a reduced fee for a limited number of sessions.

A therapist could also help you figure out whether you are being harassed, which nobody should have to put up with and depending on the facts may be illegal.
posted by ADave at 10:41 PM on June 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Examine what you're subconsciously assuming about them and how you perceive them. Assuming they don't like you (mentioned above) is a good one. Assuming they're doing things "on purpose" to piss you off is another. Just ask yourself what you think they mean by their actions. Then change your interpretation into something positive.

Another way to do this, if you're at all meditation inclined, is to do the taking & giving meditation. It is a visualization where you imagine taking the suffering of others (in this case people you're having a hard time with) and transform it into well-being which you then send to them. It really works to help shift feelings around people, get rid of those bad vibes and let you see more clearly.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:58 AM on June 8, 2014

Hey guys, thanks again for all of the positive support and feedback. At the moment I was just very frustrated and quite frankly irritated, which I feel was absolutely justifiable.

I can understand a lot of the viewpoints, and points of action as well, especially being in the mindset that the company I am working for is shitty, despite being very qualified for the job. This is not the case, I am just stating that I understand that point of view.

Taking a step back is a very good approach, and thats exactly what I did, however carried out my interactions with others normally. It seemed to have worked at the point was made.

Workplace interactions can always be challenging, and I think starting with a clear approach and a positive mindset to each day is an important thing to do.

The workplace is not abusive, thankfully, as I feel I definitely did experience that at my past job looking back on things. Looking back, I wish I had taken more affirmative action towards it.

I think I definitely have trouble standing up for myself and stating my defense, as well as also, forgiving and letting things slide sometimes.
posted by wak5700 at 10:13 PM on June 8, 2014

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