6 People You’ll Meet at Work & Tips for Optimizing Your Working Relationship
No matter where you work, it’s probable you will come face to face with these people at some point. Some are annoyingly perfect, while others are simply annoying. These quirky souls are sure to cross your path, and learning to deal with or learn from them can improve your work life exponentially.
Like characters in a movie, you don’t always understand them until the plot unfolds. However, the people you meet at work fall into two categories: those who help you thrive and those you must survive. Either way, it is possible to get along with, and even learn from, each of them.
Colleagues that Help You Thrive
If you are a coworker of Mr. or Ms. Punctuality, you might have found that person annoying at first, especially if, despite your best efforts, you manage to be perpetually late. This person is often the first one to arrive at the office and is already at their desk, cup of coffee in hand, when the rest of the office begins to buzz to life. Their projects are always completed on time or ahead of schedule. They might even ask questions and begin on a project the moment it is assigned—there’s no 11th hour work here. It can sometimes feel as if the uber-punctual employee is making the rest of the office look bad, and calling management’s attention to the slackers, but these people are the supervisor or owner’s dream.
Ms. Punctuality realizes that being ten minutes late in the morning and taking just 10 extra minutes at lunch adds up to 86 ½ hours a year. Vacation? If you run that late to work, you already took two weeks!
Tip: Learn a few pointers from the perpetually punctual. When you begin to emulate this person, you demonstrate that…
- You keep your word. You agreed to start at 9 a.m. and you arrive in time to begin work then.
- You are a professional that values your job.
- You are committed to helping the company succeed because everyone achieves better results when work begins and is completed on time.
- You can reduce the stress in your own work life. Lateness creates stress and a constant feeling of being behind the 8-ball. No one likes that feeling.
You’ll recognize the mentor right away. This person is a level or two ahead of you at the company. They did your job for many years and sometimes they act as if they want to do it again because the engage you in conversation about your work. They encourage you in your projects without prompting, they offer sage advice, and they generally take an interest.
It’s possible that you don’t recognize The Mentor(s) at work. If you’re caught up in the idea of ascending to the C-suite, you might be missing the steps and potential mentors in between. So unless you have climbed the ladder sufficiently far that you can see the corner office from where you currently sit, don’t expect the CEO to mentor you. Instead, rely on the mentors that are around you every day.
Tip: When a potential mentor offers a story or advice about something you are working on, ask for more information. Pay special attention to the potential mentors who are where you want to be in your career one year or five years down the road. Get to know The Mentor. Take them out for coffee and get to know them a little better before you pick their brain.
The Executive Standout
Every workplace has one or two people that you can just tell are likely to become the CEO, CFO or COO someday. Maybe you can identify the likely candidates, but you cannot pinpoint what qualities they have that make them a shoe-in for those roles. Plenty of executive assessment firms offer research-backed advice about how to select a CEO or board member. But long before those candidates are penciled in to a succession plan, the candidates begin to exhibit certain traits that make others take notice. If you aspire to a CXO position, you’ll want to figure out sooner than later what “the right stuff” is.
Tip: CXOs are forward thinking. They plan for the future with their eye on a prize, and that prize probably isn’t what you think. Their forward thinking has more to do with increasing the company’s revenues that it does with climbing the ladder. The future CXO takes action and is decisive. They help everyone more the company dream forward by presenting challenging ideas and goals but are also sensitive to others’ needs in accomplishing those goals. They naturally build teams because others willingly follow the honest and ethical future CEO.
Colleagues that Require Extra Patience
In school, this person could have been the stinky kid whose aroma assails the nostrils; when they open their mouth to speak, you prepare for a pungent cloud of dragon breath. Worse still, you cringe when you hear the person in the neighboring cubicle clipping their nails at their desk! Whether it’s the sharp reek of unwashed body or the lingering scent of overpowering fragrance, if an odor or action is distracting, you shouldn’t live with it one minute longer.
Tip: No matter how you confront the offender, be tactful. Feelings are at stake here. Some people have legitimate health concerns that cause them to be more odiferous than others. You can offer Altoids mints or mention that strong perfume gives you a headache. Body odor is no laughing matter but is more awkward to address. From a manager’s or owner’s perspective, this employee’s odor can reflect badly on the company. Meet with the employee privately. You do not want to mention coworker complaints but rather begin with something like, “I want to talk to you about something I noticed, and I hope you aren’t offended by it.”
When you left your lunch in the office refrigerator, it was neatly packed in a brown bag: chips on top of sandwich, water bottle tucked down the side, sliced apples and little caramel dip cup nestled next to the chips. But when noon rolls around and you take your lunch to the break table, the apple slices and caramel are gone! Worse, you spy the caramel cup casually tossed in the trash can.
Although it’s tempting to call the cops, yell “Thief!” and demand DNA testing of the discarded caramel cup, you sit quietly and eat what’s left of your lunch. At least this week your purple, shoe-shaped stapler hasn’t walked away from your desk overnight.
Every office suffers silently with “borrowers.” We don’t want to call them thieves, because certainly someone just had a paperclip crisis and needed to borrow your stapler immediately, or they were famished after forgetting to eat breakfast and would definitely have collapsed from hunger if they hadn’t consumed your apples.
Tip: But really, what can you do? Some employees have had limited success labeling their food or pasting nasty notes to the refrigerator warning off the potential thief. Mostly, the brazen borrowers continue their clandestine pilfering. If you happen to catch the culprit red-handed, go ahead and call their attention to your name on the label. However, if your boss is the entitled borrower that thinks by virtue of being the boss, he can eat whatever food is on the community fridge, you might have to put up with the inconvenience…even if it is tempting to pack some ghost peppers into that turkey sandwich and plant it in the cooler.
The Interrupter. No matter what anyone is talking about, the interrupter’s story, idea, experience is better and more important. These people drive the office crazy with their stories. They can hear a conversation from three desks down, casually strolling your way under pretense of grabbing another cup of joe, sidle up next to the group and jump right into the conversation. When this person butts into the conversation, smile at their contribution but don’t engage them further. They might get the hint, eventually.
Another type of interrupter routinely stops by your office and interrupts your work flow in the way a small child wants to play the minute mommy is on the telephone. Some people even pretend to be on the telephone just to get the interrupter to go away.
Tip: If you have an office with a door, you can place a sign on your door asking to not be disturbed. If the door is open and you-know-who stops by, politely tell them that you are engulfed in a project that needs your full attention. An open floor plan or cubicle set up makes it more challenging to escape the interrupter. Headphones work well to send the message, “I can’t hear you; go away.” Positioning yourself at your desk so that you cannot make eye contact with the interrupters puts up an imaginary barrier to interruption, too.
As long as there is human interaction, there is sure to be both joy and conflict at work. Embrace all the characters you meet; they’ll help you grow in ways you hadn’t thought of before.7