Office life can be rewarding, empowering... and stressful. Not necessarily because of the workload, but because of the people and situations surrounding you. Whether it's a missing lunch, unwanted imposing opinions, or even an abusive boss, it's enough to send you turning to the comfort of Cherry Garcia and a glass (or three) of red every single night. Lessen the burden you bear from these situations by taking the reigns of your behavior. Just remember, you can't control how others act, but you can control your reactions to their behavior.
1. Rooming With the Power Couple
Ok, you're sitting at your desk minding your own business, but you happened to be sharing your cube space with one half of the office's most notorious couple. This means endless visitations, uncomfortable flirtation on the regular, and constant third wheeling in your own safe-haven. It makes you want to go Bruce Li on their behinds, but, your office's code of conduct doesn't take kindly to Kung Fu action during business hours (bummer, right?).
Although audible sighs and passive-aggressive Post-it notes might seem like a viable answer, it won't do anything, as you aren't addressing the issue. It's your space too and you deserve to be comfortable in it. Try discussing it with your cube mate mentioning that the constant three's company situation is distracting to you. Possibly suggest moving their cuddle time to a different spot (ideally an out of office location like an adult would normally do). As a last resort, speak with your boss. Perhaps you can change desk partners.
2. "Losing" Your Lunch
Lunchtime is the best time of the workday. When you ACTUALLY remember to bring your favorite hot sauce, you want to use that bad boy too. It's a real buzz kill when hunger strikes, and you discover a portion of your labeled lunch was tampered with, and that taste-tastic sauce is MIA. Come to think of it, this ridiculousness happens more often than those never-ending department budget meetings (sigh). Why even label your food if it's still open season?
While it might take a little extra effort, you can bring a small, personal-sized cooler to keep at your desk. This way, the only person that is digging through your lunch is you! Not to mention you pretty much scored your own personal fridge. No one's taking those Dr. Peppers anymore that's for sure. Check out this chic cooler from L.L. Bean!
3. Getting in the King or Queen of Contradiction's Crossfire
This person exists in every office. You can tell them the sky is blue, and they will fight you tooth and nail to prove otherwise. Their goal in any presentation or meeting is to destroy any idea that isn't theirs more efficiently than Godzilla stomps through Tokyo. Aren't you playing for the same team? Constructive criticism is always welcome, but gez, this person thrives on putting people down.
This tactic from your co-worker is a defense mechanism. She wants to seem like more of an asset and build her own self-worth by devaluing the work produced around her. Instead of playing for team "we," she plays for team "me." Stand your ground and defend your work. Once this person sees she can't rattle you, she will likely become more intimidated by what you bring to the table. It might not always get her to back off, but it will show management that you are confident in what you do. It will also expose her own shortcomings if she is grasping at straws for an argument.
4. The Opinionator's Preaching
They raise their kids the best way, their religion is the best, their political opinion is the best and everything else is WRONG. Whenever anyone disagrees, they get a full sermon on why their opinion is wrong. It makes you step back and wonder if it should be mandated that church and business be separated. It's infuriating and, many times, offensive.
This is a tough one because you don't want to crash down on someone else's opinions. That doesn't make you any better than the person who is causing the issue to begin with. However, you can tell them that these topics are not ones that make you feel comfortable. Keep it vague by saying, "That might be your opinion, but I don't think this is an appropriate discussion for the office." There is no discussion if only one person is participating. If enough people follow suit, who will be there to listen?
5. Greek-Life Recruitment
People straight out of college are wide-eyed and excited about being part of the team. Perhaps they are used to making a statement through loud laughter, putting together events that echo through the hallways, or announcing their thoughts of The Bachelor every Tuesday morning because of their activities in college. They might be the life of the holiday party, but on a Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., it becomes overwhelming.
Overall these people are pretty harmless, despite the constant noise. They want to fit in and find their place, which is something to remember. You were there once too. If you are a person that enjoys working to some tunes, invest in some decent headphones. I'm talking those block everything except your innermost thoughts type of headphones. Those babies will eliminate everything. Catch up on your weekly podcasts, or chill to some of your favorite tunage without extraneous noises. Sennheiser is my favorite brand of headphones; they will change your office life.
6. Listening to the Complaint Department
Know what's great? Hearing people complain about their job every day. Not. Of course the office is exactly where you want to be every day, right? Not (again). You just don't need someone rubbing all of the office issues in your face every single day. "The temperature is too cold," "Our boss doesn't pay us enough," or "Why don't WE get Columbus Day off too?" are just the works of a Debbie Downer. If they hate it so much, why don't they find another job... or another career path?
Negativity is contagious. Listening to complaints day after day make you complain about the same things to other people. It's a vicious cycle. What you can do is use the well-known office tactic called the "sandwich approach." This includes peppering in some positive comments or solutions to the mix. A response to, "Our boss doesn't pay us enough" is "What are some things you can pitch to management you think are raise worthy?" or "I've looked at the market rate, and it seems to be on the lower end; however, we have more of a flexible schedule compared to other offices." Be that beam of sunshine this person may need every day.
7. Living in the Shadows of the Stage Hog
Everyone has something to say in that important presentation, but nothing grinds your gears more than playing the supporting role to a peer that steals the limelight. After you get your 1.26 minutes in, they seem to take the remaining 14.74 and dominate the Q&A session. You spent just as many sleepless nights pouring your blood, sweat, and tears (so many tears) into this thing, and you leave wondering if you needed to show up to present at all.
Bounce off of the energy of the type-A presenters. Did they crack a joke? Laugh and jump in to add to that statement because a joke typically calls for a pause. Use the bits of silence to your advantage. Perhaps your partner might just have the jitters which causes her to talk a lot. It may not be intentional. Regardless, it's always a good idea to plan. Take ownership to who presents what. This way no one gets left out to dry during the big meeting, but still use their energy to play off of one another. It shows that there is a good partnership behind this work.
8. Getting Slammed by the Big Man on Campus
You landed your dream job, and you are excited to make your mark on this world! However, the more fresh ideas and positivity that surrounds you, the more your boss hassles you along with it. You can't seem to do anything right. You don't know what you ever did to get on their bad side to begin with, but it seems like they have always had it out for you. It has gotten to the point where you get to work early just to sit in your car and psyche yourself up for the day... because you will endure his or her wrath in one way or another.
If you are getting verbally, emotionally (or in rare cases physically) abused by your boss, it is a tough situation but it is never okay. If you bring a lot of talent to the table, he could look at you as a potential threat to his empire. Truth be told, a good boss builds his people up; he doesn't push people down. This only shows insecurity to the team. The only thing you really can do in this situation is seek HR's help. If you work for a small company that doesn't have HR on site, contact the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (aka the Labor Board for your state). Chances are you don't want to rock the boat, but these people are here to help you. What you can't do is sit back and keep enduring this abuse. And yes, this is abuse.
9. The Serial Dater's Advances
Dressing to impress is your thing. Looking good equals feeling good. However, this air of confidence can draw attention, and admirers. That's fine. It lets you know "you still got it." On the other hand, sometimes you meet THAT person who doesn't know how to take "no" for an answer. Asking you out on lunch dates, "bumping into you" on your break time, the chance encounters at your favorite bar, and the endless emails are getting a little out of hand and are sort of freaking you out.
You need to have a direct heart-to-heart with this person. As soon as things get uncomfortable on your end, you have to set the record straight because things won't get better. Stringing them along or letting it go will only keep them hopeful, which isn't healthy either. After you let them know where you're coming from and the behavior still doesn't stop-you need to talk to HR. Your company is tasked with providing you a safe environment to work in every day, and they will take the measures to ensure this behavior stops immediately. Even if this person is camping out at your house outside of business hours, HR needs to know about it and the police.
Workin' Hard to Make Things Work
Keeping office drama in check can be a job in itself, but it can be done. Don't seek retaliation, practice the mantra we instill in our youth and be the bigger person. Be upfront, stay solution oriented, but also make sure you also come out of the situation as a winner. You spend a ton of time in your office (more time than you'd like!), so you have to make it as comfortable as you can. Be the boss you know you can be, and you'll be making moves in no time!