While it may seem easier to avoid certain people in the workplace, you may be limiting yourself when you limit your interactions with a colleague.

When we get stopped in the face of working with people we don’t like or understand, we close ourselves off to opportunities to be productive and efficient.  Instead of expanding and learning, we find ourselves shrinking.

Let’s say you have a colleague who doesn’t share information freely.  Kind of like a squirrel, she gathers all the nuts she can and then sits on them.  Pulling the information out of her is like trying to open one of those nuts with both hands tied behind your back.  And to make matters worse, she is suspicious of your intentions.

Each time it happens you think to yourself if this happens again, I’m going to lose it.  But you say nothing because you feel that if you do, it will make matters worse.  It feels hopeless.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could interact with that colleague in a way that would change the dynamic so she stopped hogging the nuts? 

Or perhaps your issue is with the employee who handles I.T. for the company?  He behaves inappropriately in meetings.  derails important discussions with dumb jokes, spends an inordinate amount of time checking his phone and occasionally wears flip flops and shorts to the office which is too casual to be professional.

Now he’s beginning to irritate upper management.  It’s kind of like working with Homer Simpson except that he knows everything about I.T. at your company!  You know you need to talk to him about his behavior but you’re afraid to lose him.

What if by talking to him, you not only found a way to make upper management happy, but you transformed his ability to move up in his career.  What if you could be the hero of his story?

Here’s the good news; the first steps that will take you from avoidance to engagement.. are baby steps.

 Coach Me Quick Tips for taking baby steps:

  1. Find a reason that is not work related to engage with the colleague you are avoiding.  It might be as simple as complementing an outfit or asking for directions.  Simple engagements begin to lay the foundation for connection.
  2. Ask questions.  Find something to be curious about and follow your curiosity to learn more about this colleague.  When we gain information, we sometimes have a perspective shift that easily changes a difficult dynamic.
  3. Practice executive presence.  When people are confident in themselves and their work, they don’t need to explain or defend.  They are present and listening with no need to “prove” themselves.
  4. Acknowledge and appreciate.  Find something that you can genuinely acknowledge about your colleague’s work.  When people are acknowledged, they become more secure and more open to dialogue.

Shifting from a protective position to a more engaged position may not sound easy, but with a bit of practice, you will strengthen those muscles … and enjoy the benefits of expansion.

Taking those baby steps.. in L.A.


Photo credit: Boguslaw Mazur | Dreamstime.com