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Engaging with Your Colleagues

Last time, I told the story about a great colleague when I lived in Ukraine.

This time, it’s not so positive. It’s a negative story – one that you may be able to relate to. It's about one of the more difficult people that I've worked with in the past.

-The 'Sky is Falling' Guy….

I’d been back in the US about a year after living abroad for several years. I knew it would be challenging to adapt back to my home culture, back to the pace and the expectations of the workforce in the US.

But I never anticipated this guy. I’ll call him Joe for the sake of anonymity.

In my first interaction with Joe, he refused to shake my hand.

I had no idea why. I circled back later to try again – I thought maybe it was some weird understanding. He still refused to shake my hand.

I didn’t realize it, but Joe had already decided that he didn’t like me. He saw me as ‘competition’. He and his buddy started the gossip about me almost immediately.

-Trying Harder….

I remember going to a training conference for a few days with Joe and a few other new teammates. We were the ‘new hires’.

I remember resolving to have a ‘break through’ with him. I was going to try harder.

I tried hard to engage with him. I tried to befriend him. I’d ask for his advice. I tried to treat him like he was already my friend.

No matter what I did, he would cut me down and throw me ‘under the bus’ in front of the group.

-Joe the Complainer .

Joe complained about everything.

  • The management is screwed up

  • The company’s products are screwed up

  • The ownership group is screwed up

  • The whole world was screwed up

  • The marketing program is screwed up

  • All of his ex-wives (there were a few of them) were all screwed up

And Joe constantly complained about these things. I never once heard him say anything positive about our company, the management, or our colleagues.

One day, I suggested to Joe that he talk directly with management about his concerns. I suggested that he try worth through his concerns. He laughed it off…and kept complaining to the group that we were in.

It was no fun to ‘work through' it for Joe. He enjoyed the negativity and complaining. He seemed to ‘thrive’ off of it.

-A New Realization for me….

At this point in my career, I’m in my 30’s. I’ve had a good amount of experience…but I think I was still naïve in some ways.

The main way that I was naïve…is that I thought everyone I worked with would like me.

In this role, however, this idea was absolutely crushed.

Some people were not going to like me…no matter what I did. Joe was the first one to teach me this.

-Application for Today -

Many of my colleagues through the years have taught me so many positive things. You’ve probably had the same experience.

Honestly – the main thing Joe taught me…is what NOT to be as a colleague.

Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation. Maybe you are in that situation now.

But…you don’t have to join in the complaining.

You don’t have to join in on throwing people under the bus.

You don’t have to join in the negativity.

Learn what ‘not’ to do from your Joe, and move forward. Move forward and be a good colleague to those around you.

-In the End -

I never understood why the company tolerated Joe. I moved on after a few years. But Joe stayed in that company.

Finally, someone started to ‘push back’ on Joe. I heard from others…Joe was demoted.

My friend in the company said ‘He’s just going to stay there until he’s retired…so he can make the people around him miserable’.

And he did. Joe finally retired, but not before he made as many people as he could be miserable.

Don’t be like Joe…..


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