A survival guide to handling difficult colleagues

Work can be an amazing empowering place, full of people who share, help and have common goals.. Well it can be, but sometimes it can be a hot bed of competitiveness, egos, and a whole lot of oh no you didn’t just throw me under the bus!

I exaggerate but I think it’s useful to know the types of colleagues you’ll come across and the best ways to deal with them. I’ve broken them down into types and rest assured some are much less difficult than others and some are quite possibly charming! When you start work, be polite and interested but don’t rush into being besties, watch, stick around, be the best Cagney or Lacey you can be (younger readers ask your mum). Suss people out carefully and the best friendships and solid working relationships will blossom naturally.

I only speak nicely to people who can further my career

They are the men/ women who can barely say two words to you. They blankly stare at an excel spreadsheet for hours on end, or spend the morning texting their partner, who’s not really their partner as they don’t want to put a label on it. They only make tea or coffee when the boss is around. They look blankly at you as you try to engage a discussion on what really happened in the lift with solange, B and Jay Z. All this changes when someone important, your boss/ bosses boss etc walks in. All of a sudden disinterested daphne becomes Doris Day and don’t really care Carl becomes Cary Grant. Why this sudden transformation? Well quite simply they want to impress, they want to be noticed by the boss. So before the boss has taken their coat off they’ll mention their outfit, ask about their weekend, ask after their kids. It can be seen as a natural habitat for posh people or it could just be being polite but for me as a northern comprehensive school kid it often smacked of disingenuous sucking up! I couldn’t believe why the bosses couldn’t see this? Why a few flattering words meant that whatever the standard of their work it was somewhat irrelevant. However these people climb faster up the ranks than a BeyoncĂ© album on the charts! Karma is a bitch though and occasionally as I’ve risen up the ranks had to hire these people and I always remember how they treated their peers and those in entry level roles. Be cautious of these people as beneath the perfect passive agressive smile, claims of friendship and being all round wholesome, they often will throw you under the bus to get ahead!

Let’s bitch about everyone

You have a meeting with someone, the meeting finishes and shake hands and say “great meeting”. You walk back to your desk and there is your colleague, arms folded, lips pursued and the first thing that they say is “you know what she did don’t you”. They thrive on gossip, love it, for them it brings them power and attention. Nothing is better for them than totally dissecting someone’s appearance and personality. Sometimes it’s subtle sometimes it’s blatant, sometimes it’s one person or a whole pack but you’ll know who they are. They can often be popular, people are drawn to people with knowledge and they love to know the ins and outs of peoples lives. They can often be seen holding court in the
pub after three bottles of Pinot Grigio bemoaning the fact that they are a victim on the one hand and on the other hand regurgitating vile opinions on a colleague or a boss. These shocking words cause shrieks of laughter from the cronies surrounding, thinking it’s cool, edgy and hilarious to be a bitch. Well it’s not it’s just nasty. You can be easily drawn to them, with gossips there is often a lot of charisma and humour but stop yourself and really think. If they are saying all this stuff about your colleagues do you not think they might be saying stuff behind your back too? It’s easy to engage particularly after your second glass of Pinot Grigio but this is a very slippery slope. Those words that made everyone laugh and you thought you were so cool will be spat out at every water cooler moment for the next week, then who’s seen as being the bitchy one. It’s difficult I know as if you are aloof you can be a target so smile, be polite but disengage as much as you can. We’re not in high school anymore there is no need to be part of the perceived cool gang!

The take credit for other peoples work

These people are often initially harder to decipher, you can even think that they are your favourite person in the office, your office chum. Well that is until after six months of working on a project they throw you under the bus in a meeting. This bus throwing can be of two types, the I did it all and take solo credit for the project or when the project is questioned or something
Is wrong then they relinquish responsibility and blame you. This credit taking can often be in big meetings in front of big bosses. This is a cowardly way to throw you under the bus as they know you have limited right of reply without looking like a sulky teenager “but i did that”. Or they can prior to that meeting not cc you in emails, downplay your role or even schedule meetings when they know that you can’t attend them. All this is served with a television staple the passive aggressive smile. The piece de resistance of “oh darling so sorry they didn’t see your work, I am a stronger communicator”. This is obviously said to you quietly when the meeting has dispersed. The initial reaction at this point is to tell them the truth and call them to their face. Do this metaphorically in your head not physically and say as I used to say “oh that’s the way your going to play it then”. Take control at the start of the project next time round, say to them you need to be cc’d in all emails. Email the boss yourself to update them, ask for a weekly catch up so you can update in person. When you get great feedback forward it on to your boss, not in a check me out kind of way, but in a look this project is really taking shape kind of way. At the start of the project or day to day sit down with the difficult colleague and agree who does what. If they cross that lines, say to them “we agreed I would do that ” if they do it again speak to your boss or take on some of there work see how they like it. Don’t fight fire with fire though, take the moral high ground and remember keep evidence of your work! If it’s all there then no one can dispute it.

Do no work and get away with it

These are somewhat rarer these days but they tend to be the offspring of someone important who no one wants to offend. They can be the runner that is practically surgically attached to their phone texting their mates bemoaning about how s**t work is. But because daddy is very senior in television then this behaviour is somewhat tolerated. Someone with no connections behaving the same way would be our on their ears before the end of the first day.

There are also the ones who’ve proven themselves, they won a bafta in 1998 and can pick and chose the projects they want to work on. Neglecting to mention that we paying them to do nothing but bask in their former glory. Now I’m all about respect but you need to “shape up” to reference Olivia Newton-John in Grease. By having double standards based on former glories it sends a shocking message of inconsistency down the ranks. Bad behaviour becomes tolerated and even revered all because people are seen as creative and can spot a hit. Fantastic but what are they doing day to day I ask you.

In love with everyone in the office

These people can be adorable, be great friends but it gets annoying when the daily conversation revolves around how hot the new guy is, or does he fancy me, did you see the way he looked at me. These obsessive types are continually looking for love often in all the wrong places. Now I don’t mean to sound prudish and office relationships can blossom. However it’s damn frustrating when you want someone to get something done and you are subjected to a twenty minute diatribe of how hot Jim in accounts looks in his cycling shorts (I’m sure he looks great).

This can transcend the office, the colleague that shares every aspect of their dating life, every row, every snog, mini breaks away. You nod politely, maybe even sigh and say that sounds lovely but in your head you are screaming shut up shut up! Or after listening to a fifteen minute rant about how Bob forgot to kiss her on the way out to work this morning and what does that mean..you have to fight the urge to get Bob’s number ring him and tell him to run, run like the wind!

Make sure these people ask about your life. You are not a sponge to absorb everyone’s woes and first world problems.. Remember that!

So there is just a whistle stop tour of some of the characters you’ll meet in pretty much any office! Be wary and don’t become them. Focus on your work, set goals, be ambitious and all will be fine.


Stare your limiting beliefs in the face and tell them you’re breaking up with them

I can’t, I should, I have no time, people will think I’m ridiculous, it’s very selfish, I have commitments.. How often do we have this verbal dialogue in our head when an opportunity arises or when that niggling “I wish I had” plays out. I often find these moments when watching Nashville or gossip girl or some drama aimed at people much younger than myself.

Why do we not just go “hell yeah I’m doing that and I’m going to do it now”. Well sometimes we don’t for legitimate reasons like money (otherwise I’d be sipping champagne with Naomi on P Diddy’s yacht). However more often than not we don’t take some of life’s challenges or do the things we want to do because quite simply we believe we can’t do them, we don’t deserve them or we worry about what people will think. It feels so much safer to live in the comfort zone of our day to day.

We remember and replay in our minds things that teachers, parents, partners, friends and that drunk girl in the nightclub said to us and we believe that to be our reality. We often forget that these comments are often flippantly said and quickly forgotten by the perpetrators, but those words can stay with us for a lifetime. So you think I want to go to hip hop dance class but at youth theatre I was told I couldn’t dance and had no rhythm (that’s a personal one for me). Or you believe yourself to be ugly and fat, why because an abusive ex partner told you so. You stop yourself from going for that promotion, why because someone once said you’d amount to nothing. Is it interesting how theses beliefs can sink into our subconscious and become what we think are our reality. We also forget all the amazing things people say to us, it’s like a hundred people in a room tell you that you are amazing but one turns round and tells you that you are stupid. Most people would remember the stupid comment rather than all the others.. It’s like we feel we are not good enough for praise.. Let’s tone it down before we get too big for our boots. Forget that know you are amazing, stay humble though you don’t want to lose perspective like Kanye.

So what are your limiting beliefs? What do you believe to be true about you? Get a notebook, any notebook be it leather embossed with a family crest or splashed with pictures of Harry Styles it really doesn’t matter. Open the notebook and write down ten things you believe are true about yourself. Be it, I’m no good at relationships, I can’t lose weight, I can’t sing.. Whatever they are write them down! Then ask yourself do you know that to be the truth or are you just believing what others have said. Do you want to do these things? Ask yourself honestly, you might think actually I don’t want to go bungee jumping but I do want to be promoted. Or your love of painting that you’ve not done such 15 is something that you really want to pick up.

Look at that list, really look it and imagine those words are people. Take a deep breath and tell them you are breaking up with them. Every morning as you brush your teeth, say (aloud or in your head as flat mates may worry) “I am breaking up with negative thoughts about myself and negative thoughts about others”. Putting it simply “ain’t nobody got time for that”.

We can let perceived truths rule our lives, we can use those words to justify our choices and decisions. Ask yourself truly and honestly though are you happy. If you’re not and want to change take baby steps in the right direction. Happiness is now, so go out dance in the rain and grasp it and be the most authentic you!


Things to remember when you start a new job.

The first day in a new job is oddly reminiscent of your first day in a new school. Those butterflies in your stomach, those thoughts in your head swirling around with “am I good enough” “will they like me” “I’ll be found out”. That sense of anxiety and unease confounded with “will I be late” and more often “damn I’ve got toothpaste on my top”. Most people have gone through that and if you haven’t well then I applaud you, you’ve got it all sorted.

Here’s a few hints, tips and things to remember to help you deal with the anxiety and to help you create a great first impression.

Remember you were given the job, because they thought you’d be great at it

You went through an interview process. Probably many, you’ve been put through your paces, you’ve worked hard and impressed. Please remember that. So many people have that inner panic of “what if they’ve made a mistake” and “maybe there was no one else”. Forget that! No one gives someone a job just because no one else turned up, or because they thought you were a nice person. Particularly not in television I can guarantee that. So believe in yourself, know that you have the job on merit, go in with your head held high but with your ego in check!

Know how to get there

This sounds like a given duh yeah of course I know where I’m going to work! However you’ll be surprised how some people don’t, often when they have interviewed at another office. Check, double check, plan your journey. Leave earlier than you need to. Nothing worse than knowing you are going to be late for your first day. First impressions do count. Now things happen, traffic jams, trains delayed, if that’s the case then ring ahead, apologise and let your boss know when you’ll be in. When you get in, then apologise some more. Things happen but your boss and team will know when it’s a genuine delay or whether you’ve over slept. Don’t make up train delays either. I remember someone very late to a job who said “oh so many delays on the Piccadilly line” hmmm I thought “not when I got it love!”

Get there early sit in reception, sip some water, compose yourself, nip to the loo and then be ready to face the day, calmly and with purpose.

Keep something back

Whether we like it or not we are all judged on first impressions. Nerves can make us retreat or in the case of some people over share. When on your first day someone asks how was your weekend? Keep it polite and calm rather than “oh my god I was so wasted and then I met this hot guy and you know one thing led to another” Now that might be true but keep the details for your friends. People will remember you as the party boy/girl. Let people get to know you as being good at your job and then they will get to know you as a person. Just don’t have everything out there on the table keep an air of mystery.. Well at least a little bit of mystery.

Remember you need to learn and don’t know it all

We put so much pressure on ourselves when we start a new job to really succeed, to impress, to get the job done. Nothing wrong with that at all, truly admirable but remember you don’t have to know it all after five minutes. It can take a while to navigate systems specific to the company, to fathom out reporting structures or simply how to forward a call to a colleague. You’ve not worked there before and each company has it’s own nuances. So ask ask ask until you are confident. Write down stuff, carry a pad and pen with you to jot down those details. People don’t mind, they’d rather you asked and got it right. In fact that air of nonchalantly presuming you know it all can irk your colleagues so show you value their opinions by asking them questions. Now if you’ve been told a dozen times and you are still not grasping it then something is wrong. So it’s important to double check initially rather than to go in head first and presume you know when the reality is that you really don’t have a clue.

Avoid the mean girls

You’ll spot them straight away, they’ll smile broadly but not with their eyes taking in everything about you to e dissected later at the lunch table. You can feel the judgement pouring out of them and you feel super self conscious about that scuff mark on your shoe or that you might still have remnants of breakfast on your face. They will ask you “what do you think about such and such” laughing to lure you into a circle if trust, but what they really want to do is suss you out see if you are cool enough to be in their gang. It’s easy when you are new to be flattered and grateful but when people start bad mouthing people don’t join in. This can come back to haunt you with “oh Simon agrees with me, or Simon was saying this about such and such”. Nod, smile and say “oh I don’t really know them”. That’s the best way. People are often tactical when they start a new job and align themselves with people who they think will further their careers, or the popular gang. Not much changes since high school. Like high school cliques fall in and out of favour. So like who you like and keep the focus on work. Integrity and authenticity will always shine through even when you think that they don’t.

Don’t make out with the boss

It’s the first Thursday of your working week in your new job and the whole team is heading for margarita night. Three margaritas in you and your boss both reach for the tortilla chips, your hands graze and you’re in love! Well get that thought out of your head right now! You are drunk! People do fall in love with their bosses and colleagues but get to know them as people first. Margarita Thursday can skew things and affect your professional reputation. Don’t be known as that guy or that girl. People do silly things after a few drinks and some people don’t take their drink well. If that’s you then drink in moderation and know your limits. It’s great to bond with the team but dancing on a bar with your bits out is taking it to a whole new level.

New jobs can be scary but they don’t have to be. It’s all part of your journey, the next chapter of you, so embrace it! And remember whatever happens it’s all good stuff for the memoirs!