This was first published on ksl.com
One of the most common people problems that companies bring me to solve is office drama that has gotten out of hand.
The problems often start with two co-workers who can't get along, who finagle the rest of the office to take sides. Sometimes just one gossip-prone person who likes to stir the pot can ruin the atmosphere for the whole office.
Your first responsibility at work is to make sure you aren't the problem. If you are a person who often dislikes co-workers, gets bothered or offended easily, or feels the need to voice complaints to whoever will listen, you might be the problem in your office and this kind of behavior will absolutely hold you back in your career.
Here are some ways you can deal with office drama going on around you and make sure you aren't the problem:
Refuse to participate in gossip
Don't gossip about your co-workers even if it feels justified and you really need to vent. Find someone outside the office with whom you can voice your frustrations.
It is OK to dislike someone, but it is not OK for you to talk about that at work or encourage others to dislike them too. Practice compassion for any co-worker you dislike and understand they are doing the best they can with what they know.
Stop and get some clarity before you react to anything
Your immediate reaction to most situations will not be clear-headed. Calm down and take some time to determine the outcome you really want and the response most likely to create that outcome. If you need to respond, do so calmly and respectfully.
Give people the benefit of the doubt
You don't need to immediately assume negative intent. Most offenses aren't intentional or done with malice. Strive to be hard to offend.
Avoid people who start or spread ill-will
If someone in the office is prone to gossip or drama, stay away from them or walk away when it starts. This could make adversarial co-workers turn on you, but that's better than being part of the problem. Higher-ups can usually see who is causing the problems, and it won't be you.
Ignore most bad behavior
If it is a problem you can't ignore, have a mutually validating, private, kind, respectful conversation to address it. But for the most part, try to let most things roll off.
Don't take sides
If people are closing ranks around two co-workers, refuse to join either side. Encourage compassion toward all involved.
See everyone as having the same value
Everyone has the same infinite value on a unique classroom journey. Let them be where they are and hold back judgment. You have no idea what has happened in their life to create the place they are in now. Assume they are wounded too and that all involved deserve compassion.
Do not allow others to disparage, disregard or mistreat you, but hold these boundaries the right way with respectful conversation or by taking the problem to the right superior. Quietly document inappropriate behavior if necessary.
Don't react negatively to negativity
If you hear people are talking negatively about you, don't negatively react. This is a chance to either learn something and grow or practice knowing it doesn't matter what others say. If the negativity continues and needs to be addressed, have a private, respectful, conversation. But most of the time, just working on being the best you is the best response.
'When they go low ... go high'
Follow former First Lady Michelle Obama's advice: "When they go low, we go high." Keep taking the high road and showing compassion, maturity and respect to everyone, regardless of how low they go.
Remember: what other people do and say doesn't change your value
Another's dislike of you or the things you do doesn't change who you are. You are more bulletproof than you realize. They may try to ruin your reputation, but your best defense is to live so no one would believe them.
If a conversation becomes necessary, make sure you do it right
Find the right time, in private, and start by asking questions about how they feel and listening to them fully. Let them have room to fully share their point of view and honor and respect their right to that perspective.
Then ask if they would be willing to let you share your perspective and do it without being disrespectful or harsh. Know ahead of time what changes in behavior you are going to ask for moving forward. Ask if they would be willing to handle things that way in the future.
Take stock of your own behavior
We all must watch ourselves for inappropriate behavior at work. Watch for your ego's need to talk about other people or complain, and then choose to stay quiet. Strive to be a person who builds co-workers up, encourages them, and has compassion for their struggles instead of tearing them down.
If you are stuck in a job where inappropriate behavior and office drama abounds, consider recommending some people-skills training or executive coaching for the whole office to the higher-ups. If solutions still aren't coming, update your resume and start looking for a healthier workplace.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.