Let’s face it, most of us work to live. Bills have to be paid and kids have to be clothed and fed. Until such time as you finally start that business you’ve always been yammering on about, it is off to work you go. More than likely, it is a job that you do not like. In fact, a Gallup poll revealed that 70% of Americans hate their current jobs. From conversations that I have with most clients, the most common reason involves co-workers. The law of averages simply states that the more co-workers you have the more likely one the more of them will prove to be a challenge when it comes to working together. But this does not have to be an impossible situation. Yes, it is true that some people just cannot be reasoned with. Some folks will just insist on passing along their own personal dissatisfaction with life onto anyone and everyone they encounter. But before you go flying off the handle try a few things out.

Career Management Tip #1: Introspection (“Is It Me?”)

Whenever the working relationship goes sour, it is always a good idea to first look inward to see if you could possibly be because the issue. In fact, when it comes to any relational issues, this is a good idea. Yes, that co-worker may be annoying and was perhaps ready to sport attitude from the start. But what if your own attitude and communication style served at the trigger? When you have goals that you are attempting to accomplish, the onus falls on you to communicate in ways that achieve said goals. The strongest leaders have the most flexible communication styles. They understand what makes people respond, and they press the buttons accordingly. Of course, if after introspection you realize that you have done all you can on your end to make the working relationship work, it is time to initiate further action.

Career Management Tip #2: Address the Issue with the Employee First

All too often, working relationships get screwed up due to small misunderstandings that later mushroom into situations that don’t warrant it. Before taking any additional action, consider sitting your fellow employee down over lunch or a cup of coffee to see if the relationship issues can be resolved. You will be surprised at how often directly addressing the issue will be all that is needed. This keeps management out of it and allows you both to continue the career path with no baggage that could end up in your personnel files. But let’s say that the direct call for peace does not work. What is next?

Career Management Tip #3: Document, Document, Document

Okay, so you have attempted to resolve this with the co-worker and it didn’t seem to work. Now you must begin building your case. Document any and every instance where your interactions cross the line. Be certain that your descriptions of each scenario are fact-based and free of exaggeration and subjectivity. But I don’t recommend documenting this information on your employer’s server. Start a document on your phone that you can update regularly. Perhaps a Google document that automatically backs itself up and can be edited from multiple devices.

Career Management Tip #4: Refer to Employee Handbook to Chart Proper Course

When it is all said and done, you want to be sure that you are going “by the book”. If your situation in some way escalates out of control, you want to be able to point to the fact that you followed the guidelines as set forth by the company to resolve any personal issues. If your employer has an employee manual that addresses relationship issues with other employees and how to handle it, check with it first. It will likely address the proper personnel and way in which to bring this situation to leadership. If, for some reason, your employer does not provide any written instructions on how to prevent this issue, then follow your standard chain of command. Bring the situation to the attention of your own immediate supervisor. But be certain that you document faxed and keep emotional hyperbole and opinion out of it.

Career Management Tip #5: Don’t Gossip About the Situation with Other Employees

Nothing complicates and muddles a situation worse than telling several people who have nothing to do with the situation about what is going on. Before long, what you end up having is a gossip tree that turns the story several different ways before it finally reaches back to that person’s ear. And you’ve now got more trouble to deal with! Not everyone that you tell this story to will have your best interest at heart, or truly wish to see the situation resolved. It actually serves as entertainment for some, and they will get things into a frenzy simply to make their day pass faster. Not to mention that by the time you decide to tell your supervisor, you will then have to wade through the innuendo with them to separate the fact from fiction. This ends up being a very bad look on you, even if you did not initiate the problem. This is because you will not come across as an office gossip and regardless of how that situation resolved itself, management we’ll look at you differently from that point on. This situation between the parties involved and your supervisor only.

For many, resolving co-worker issues becomes the key to a more enjoyable working environment. No, everyone is not a match from a personality standpoint. But professionalism between all involved is the least we should all expect. When you have an issue and you go by the book and resolve it, this shows management your ability to follow proper protocol and handle difficult situations. And this is what future managers do. Get it?