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I'm struggling to get along with my co-workers. What can I do to fix this?

Succeed on the Job
Answer

Sorry to hear this! But it’s great that you’re taking some ownership and trying to figure out how to improve things.

How to fix this problem depends on what’s going on:

  • If people seem unfriendly, they could be pleasant people who don’t know how distant they seem to someone new. Or is it possible you’re expecting too much? Your co-workers should be pleasant and professional, but not all of them will become your close friends.
  • If people seem overly critical of your work, try to be objective, openly listen to their feedback, and decide whether you just need practice at accepting constructive criticism, or if your colleagues are being deliberately difficult.
  • If people seem negative, you could be up against a problem with workplace culture. It happens. Sometimes you get stuck in a place where some people complain a lot and are generally unhappy.

Situations like these can cause stress, complicate your relationships and make you want to quit, but you can take steps to improve things.

Identify the Problem

Are you new to the job or the workforce? Co-workers who’ve been at a workplace a lot longer than you may seem to be excluding you without knowing it. Forge connections by regularly offering smiles and conversation. Showing an interest in co-workers may help you fit in.

Cope With Criticism

If it feels like you can do nothing right, start talking. Choose a relaxed moment, approach your co-worker(s) calmly and directly, and explain your point of view. The criticism may stem less from their professional opinion of your work than from personal dynamics, such as trust issues, envy, personality conflict or a generational clash. An open conversation may help.

If it doesn’t, however, you may need to ask a supervisor for help. If your supervisor is the problem, go to your human resources department.

Battle Negativity

If most of your co-workers seem negative or irritable, it will be difficult to fix the problem quickly. Dynamics like these are not your fault, and you can’t fix them by yourself. Try approaching your supervisor for advice. He or she may already be aware of the problem and be working on a solution. If nothing changes, you may be able to request a transfer to a different group or department. It may even turn out that you need to find a different workplace where the environment is a better fit for you.

Stay Positive

When trying to resolve a workplace conflict, start by broaching the issue with your co-worker(s) in an open and positive way:

  • Frame your sentences in terms of how you feel instead of making accusations. Use “I” statements, such as “I feel excluded when everyone goes for lunch without me.”
  • Give your co-workers a chance to understand you by trying to start a dialogue before jumping to any conclusions.

But if nothing changes, don’t hesitate to involve your supervisor or your human resources department.