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The Real Reason Your Co-Workers Hate You

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 3/11/2015 Jessica Simko

2015-11-02-1446487344-8916939-angrycoworkers.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2015-11-02-1446487344-8916939-angrycoworkers.jpg Photo Credit: GraphicStock
When you have to spend nine or more hours per day at work, with the same people, it's a given that the experience would be so much better if you actually liked and got along with the people you have to work with -- especially when it comes to your boss. Yet, for most of us there is typically one or more people who are a regular, major, and painful thorn in our sides.
Some of us don't know or understand why there are issues in the first place and are chronically confused. But, the overwhelming majority of the rest of us believe that the problem is with the other person. We typically describe them as inconsiderate, mean, unfair, petty, lazy, or any other negative word that may come to mind.
How often do you hear a person say, "my co-worker is driving me crazy! She never keeps her word and is so incredibly rude! And I think it's my fault..."
Never? Granted, if you know you really screwed something up with that person you may say that but if you offer an apology, the person accepts it, and things still remain tense then it quickly becomes that person's fault. True?
This what office politics and games are all about -- when people act less than friendly toward one another without sharing the reason or resolving the issues. These depict the mind-bending games/drama we all go through at work. But while two people are not always destined to be "friends," there truly is only one reason these same two people simply can't pleasantly work together without undue amounts of stress.
I worked as a senior level manager in human resources for many years and it took the years between doing that job, and becoming a career expert/coach to learn that the only real cause of office politics and games is fear. And it takes some guts to admit that if it's true for you and it probably is. It rang true for me and I never even realized it.
Fear is the underlying emotion that shows up in our daily lives manifesting itself as anger, jealousy, hatred, envy, etc. It all comes down to fear and it's actually the cause of all relationship problems in and out of the workplace.
I Don't Like That Guy...
There are people at work we dislike and we make up valid reasons for it. For example, John shows up at work as a new employee. While training him, he seems nice enough but to your horror, you discover that he may know a lot more about this job than you know. He may be better at it too. He may even (nicely) point out mistakes you made. This quickly may lead you to say to yourself, "he's so arrogant! He doesn't understand how we do things here. I can't stand him!"
If these or similar thoughts are ones that pop in your head, you will likely just go with them and continue to find all sorts of other things wrong with him as time goes on.
This isn't the start of a good co-worker relationship, is it?
But if you didn't actually just 'go' with those thoughts and stopped immediately to ask yourself, "why does this upset me so much?" The answer you find just might be because you don't feel confident in your own skills and John represents a threat to you - that perhaps he will show you up and prove you less competent. Worse yet, your boss might notice and you could end up losing your job.
The truth is, 99% of what upsets us has nothing to do with the situation in front of us. John is simply triggering something else that is much deeper and if he doesn't trigger it, someone else will. We can't escape it; we must deal with our fears head on and learn to let the other person off the hook.
The Mirror Effect
On the flip side, you may have been at a meeting where everyone gave a short presentation. Yours may have been an amazing one and you felt very proud of yourself afterward. But then there is your friend and co-worker Karen, who shortly after the meeting, starts acting distant toward you and even may not invite you into meetings you previously attended. Eventually, you confront her and she simply tells you all is well and she is a little stressed out with all of her work. But these new dynamics continue, on what appears to be a permanent basis, and you have no idea why.
So, what happened? That question causes more workplace drama than people care to admit but the answer is very simple. It's fear. Again.
We all act as mirrors to each other and perhaps on the day of the meeting, your presentation was really good and she felt hers was really bad. You then became a threat to her. You unintentionally made her feel incompetent and insecure about her place in the company. In her mind, she may have thought, "she's trying to take my job! Why did she pick that topic? That's mostly my area and she's stepping on my toes!"
Drama and games are little more than our own issues being projected onto others so we don't have to face the truth about ourselves. Most people are insecure, at some level, and if fear didn't drive us to constantly defend and protect ourselves, we would all get along just fine despite our little annoying habits and traits.
Yes, there are people in every workplace who really don't belong there -- they may be rude, blatantly lie, or be unreliable. But even then, it's our own fear that causes us to 'hate' them vs tolerating them, as we worry how their lack of work ethic will impact our own jobs.
Talk to Yourself
The key to rising above this workplace drama is to be one who consistently questions your own thoughts whenever you feel hurt or upset. Recognize that the first thought that pops in your head, (i.e. "He is so rude!") almost never explains what is upsetting you. Go deeper. By continuing to ask yourself "why" and "how" questions, dig as deep as you can to uncover the real issue, which is yours and yours alone.
As far as everyone else is concerned, be aware that other people are also often reacting in fear. This is the human condition and knowing that other people may actually feel threatened by you will help you take things less personally when it otherwise looks like they are simply being hateful to you for no good reason.
Compassion goes a long way and works far better than fear ever could. If everyone recognized this "fear factor" we all carried, and acted in compassion towards one another, work would be a much happier place to be.

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