Are you a project manager with a job you love but a bunch of coworkers you can’t stand? Maybe they’re a tightly knit group that’s slow to accept outsiders, or perhaps they expect you to shoulder more than your share of the workload. Whatever the reason, it’s a drag to go into the office every day knowing your best shot at happiness is to avoid everyone you work with. Rather than let a bad team vibe ruin an otherwise great job, we’ve put together some tips to help you keep the peace, remain politically neutral, and learn to love (or at least tolerate) your coworkers.
The unwelcome wagon. Occasionally you find Project Teams that have been together so long they act like a secret society, keeping to themselves and shunning new employees.
What to do: Stop trying to become part of the crowd—the more effort you put into it, the more they’ll close ranks. Instead, cast a wider net with your interactions (end users, stakeholders, internal partners, outside collaborators) to ensure your efforts aren’t buried by someone inside the group. Seek support from outside the team for project objectives and budget requests. This will keep the focus on the overall plan, while also neutralizing any politically-motivated actions that seek to discredit or further alienate you.
The teachers. You’re new, so you must not know anything about project management, right? Don’t worry—they’ll take you under their collective wing and show you the ropes, all while quietly undermining your confidence and professional image.
What to do: Be confident in the skills and expertise you bring to the team. If people have implied that your performance or experience is lacking, check with your boss—that’s where legitimate job feedback comes from. Gain knowledge where you can, but beyond that you’ll need to firmly (and tactfully) keep unsolicited mentors at arm’s length. Remember that many of these folks mean well, while others are simply trying to cover their own lack of performance with passive aggressive “kindness.”
The gossips. There’s a lot to do in your new Project Team, but apparently there’s also a lot to gab about. The gossip is everywhere—in the halls, during meetings, maybe even in your office when they can’t pin you down somewhere else—and it’s disrupting the entire team’s productivity.
What to do: A trivial amount of office chatter is normal and innocuous, but it’s critical that you don’t fall into the gossip trap. Feel free to exchange quick pleasantries when you visit the snack machine or pass each other in the corridors, but be sure to extricate yourself at the first opportunity. Make a point of checking your watch, then let the talkers know that you must get back to work/a conference call/a meeting/the project that’s due this afternoon. You’re unlikely to change their behavior, but by accomplishing your own objectives you’ll shine come review time.
The slackers. Now that you’re on board, they’re happy to hand over their entire task list (which they probably weren’t getting through, anyhow). You suddenly have more on your plate than you can handle, and the team vanishes when you ask for help.
What to do: First, work with your boss to clearly delineate your responsibilities. Then, take a look at what kind of duties your team members are trying to unload. If there’s something you can successfully adopt that will help bolster your chances for recognition (or even promotion), don’t hesitate to give it your all. It’s important to carefully manage your workload, though—taking on additional responsibilities will reflect poorly on you if you fail to meet your objectives.
Podcast: I Hate My Co Workers. To listen CLICK HERE