Office harmony

We don’t choose our coworkers, yet on any workday, we find ourselves spending more time interacting with our coworkers than with our family and friends. A co-worker’s temperament, outlook on life, sense of humor, and even the way they move around the office, makes a big difference in whether being at work is a stressful, “grit your teeth and get through it” kind of experience or whether the feeling in the office is,“ it’s work, but I’m glad to be here.”

The nine seasons of “The Office” gave ample examples of how being at work is really more about the personalities in a company than it is about commerce.

The reason that I’ve been thinking about the impact that a coworker makes on the workplace is because one of the women I have worked with since I started at this job in January had her last day with the company on Friday. And frankly, I’m breathing a sigh of relief and actually looking forward to going to work on Monday in a way that I didn’t a week ago.

Was this woman malicious, lazy, or gossipy? Not at all, in fact, she is extremely bright and could churn out an impressive amount of work especially under a tight deadline. But her vibe was prickly and angry. The work would get done but there was always a lot of sighing, stomping around the office, and drawer slamming. I don’t think that she was angry about the work per se, it was just that her idea of being efficient turned into officiousness.

One day, she told the story of how a coworker at her previous job said that she typed like she was angry. It’s hard be to be a few feet away from that kind of aggressive intensity flying at the keyboard and not have it affect you. I would try to hunker down at my computer and keep focused on what I was doing but at the same time, I could feel my back tensing up and my shoulders rising up to my ears. Ask her a question and her typical response was a defensive “What’s going on?” which always made me feel wrong for asking the question.

In contrast, I am absolutely blessed to have another coworker who as Steve says, is the definition of a “Christian woman.” She is gracious and strong, always looking for ways that she can lighten someone else’s workload, provide honest perspective on a situation and support the office at every level, both practically and emotionally. Being trained by her is a privilege; what a wonderful woman to have as a mentor.

So, since starting this job 10 months ago I have worked with both ends of the spectrum – a coworker who is “lovable” because of her many wonderful qualities and someone who was challenging to like, let alone love. Reflecting on this gives me an opportunity to think about what kind of vibe I bring to the office. What better time than tomorrow…Monday morning… to start with the right attitude.

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