Learning to Appreciate Quirky Co-Workers
I was taking a class one summer when the professor gave us an assignment and said those dreaded words, “This assignment will be a group project.” I balked, and his response to my eye roll was simple: “Life is a group project. There are contributors and there are slackers and that is something you just have to get used to.” That is when I realized that I have been participating in “group projects” my entire life, especially at work.
Being part of a large, blended family, participating in volunteer activities, joining sports teams and taking dance classes, my “group projects” before this class had already exposed me to zainy relatives, classmates with oddball habits, competitive teammates, introverts, extroverts, story toppers and those characters who are still a work in progress, just to name a few.
Dealing with co-workers is the ultimate group project. They know what your day-to-day life is like. These are the people who become your coffee dates, lunch buddies, extended family and friends. They can listen intently while you vent about your workload or that supervisor whose hair is always on fire. And, they know how to distract you from reports with office gossip, talk about your wedding, weekend plans, a shared sports obsession or a mutual love of “Modern Family.”
The Good and The Bad
My professor was right, there are always slackers. I am thankful they have been few and far between. And I will say I am still learning to deal with them: those people who always show up late or not at all to meetings. Maybe I should start sending their outlook invite for a few minutes early, with multiple task reminders.
Then, there are those individuals who steal ideas, projects, sales or candidates. Their house of cards will eventually come crashing down.
My professor was also right about the contributors. They print out an extra copy of the meeting agenda, notice the typo on your report so you can correct it before anyone else notices, teach you how to do a v-look up on excel for, yes, the fourth time, send you the “Daily Dilbert” to brighten your day and occasionally buy your coffee.
Some of my favorite co-workers have also been the most challenging to deal with. These include a technology-challenged store manager who used to reply to my emails by handwriting on a piece of paper then faxing the note to my office. I will never understand why this method of communication made sense to him.
There was an administrative assistant who didn’t want to get her ears dirty with the headset so she would wrap toilet paper around her head then place the headset on top. We went ahead and got her a brand new headset.
One time I worked with a hiring manager who decorated my office in purple and gold (I’m a Washington State Cougar and take my Cougar/Husky rivalry quite seriously), but, fortunately, things balanced out when certain sports losses resulted in someone else paying for my lunch.
Like a Family
Much like you would in a family or on a school project team, you learn to tolerate the co-worker who steals snacks off your desk like fifth grader, as well as appreciate the colleague who takes her lunch break to go with you when you try on your wedding dress and laughs when the regional manager falls asleep during the meeting he organized.
Laura Beth Roberts
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