Life is too short to hate your coworkers.
By Kate Shipley
For many of us, work (and the workplace) is a source of a lot of stress. It’s where we hang our hopes and dreams; it determines what kind of life we can provide for our family; and it’s (maybe too often) used as a measure of self-worth. For now, let’s disregard whether it’s a fair to measure ourselves and our self-worth against our coworkers (hint: it’s probably not), and let’s focus on how to make our workplace stress-free. We all deserve the chance to enjoy what we do, or, at least, enjoy the people we do it with.
One of the biggest a-ha moments we get at Plaid is when our clients realize that people in the exact same situation have different perceptions, needs, and ways of showing their stress and emotions. What you perceive as the “right” action to take may be seen by someone else as completely wrong. When you think a project should be pushed forward, someone else might just as adamantly think you should take more time to think about it. Here’s the kicker: it’s not personal.
Sometimes we need to hear that again. It’s not personal. Most people are not disagreeing with you just to be difficult.
It seems so simple, but we often need to be reminded that most people don’t think about us as much as we think they do. Once we internalize that, workplace stress gets a lot easier to handle. Keep reading to learn the most common stressors Plaid sees in the workplace (below) and our suggestions for making it easier.
Your career is in a different place than theirs.
An office (whether it’s physical or remote) is a highway of different career trajectories. Some people have been on the highway for a while—their careers are stable, even on cruise control. Others are just entering the on-ramp, pedal to the metal, giving it all they’ve got to get up to speed. Wherever you are in your career, whether you’re not even in the car, yet, or you’re headed toward the exit, working with all these different types of people can cause stress.
Remember that if someone is in a different point of their trajectory than you (or if their trajectory doesn’t follow the same arc), they’re probably going to relate to projects and tasks differently. Workers with extensive, successful careers may want to be respected for the work they have done—their experience, their knowledge, and the time they spent. Workers in the very beginning of their careers may want to be recognized for what they can do or will do—their potential, their talent, their drive. If you find yourself angry at the new-hire who talks a big game but has no experience, or frustrated with the manager who constantly reminds you how long they’ve been with the company, think about their arc, how long they’ve been on the highway, and what that means for their career perspective.
Your work styles are different.
Work in silence or with background music? Flexible hours or regimented 9-5? Check things off right away or brainstorm at length? The way each of us approaches work may be different, and, again, it’s not personal, and it’s not wrong. At Plaid, the Birkman Method assessment teaches us that there are four common work styles that people may prefer. If you find yourself butting heads with someone over work atmosphere (maybe you work in an open floorplan and they are constantly gabbing when you’d prefer quiet), it could be that they have a different work style preference than yours.
Depending on our work style preferences, this could cause us to think that the way others approach their tasks is misguided, irresponsible, or wrong. The way we think about our jobs has to be the way everyone else does, right? It turns out that’s not the case. That doesn’t make it any less infuriating to have to share work space with someone who views it completely differently than we do, but it might provide us with some extra context and help us be a little more patient with one another.
You have different work goals.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things for us to understand about each other’s work journeys is that people have different reasons for working. We all come to the workplace with different goals. This is mostly likely because your life is different from my life is different from Joe Schmo’s life in the next cubicle over. Some of us are the main bread-winners in our family, working to feed and support our loved ones. Others support only themselves, which gives them some freedom to pick and choose what they want to prioritize. Some of us are driven to work for achievement and success and find that fulfillment through our job. Others view work as a means to an end, a way to pay for other things or experiences, placing less stock in what happens at the office. It’s all about the different ways we perceive our work and the role of a job in our lives.
Is there a magic pill to relieve all the stressors in our workplaces? We haven’t found one, yet, but a good place to start is recognizing all the ways we differ from one another. Once we understand that there’s not one right way of viewing the world, our work, and our careers, we can stop holding so tightly to the belief that there are wrong ways of viewing work. We can make room for other views to exist. We can increase our patience with one another and decrease the frustration and resentment that comes from misunderstanding. We spend so much of our time working—it would be a shame for all that time to be filled with stress.