You're generally not a bad person. You may not have been voted "most popular" in high school, but people tend to enjoy your company, and you have no trouble making friends. Sometimes strangers curse at you when you accidently cut them off in traffic, but other than that, you don't have too much trouble getting along in the world.
So why, pray tell, does your coworker get so agitated every time you walk into a room or open your mouth during a meeting?
At first you chalked this up to a simple miscommunication. But when you tried to sit down with him and clear the air, things only got worse. Now he's in your head. Just the sight of his face brings you down, and everything you say around him comes out sounding clumsy, insulting, patronizing or angry, even when your intentions are the opposite. When he zigs, you zag, and this relationship has become an official train wreck.
In order for either of you to succeed at work, you both need open communication, respect and trust. And you have none of these three things. What now?
If talking won't resolve the issue (and honest, fearless conversation usually solves all but the most serious of problems), you have three basic options:
Each solution comes with its own set of pros and cons, which are outlined in detail below.
1. Put in More Work
If you work twice as hard to cover the shortcomings caused by this toxic relationship, you may continue to impress your boss and clients, but consider the long term cost to your career path and your overall mental health. Nothing in this life comes for free, including energy, and running twice as fast just to stand still isn't usually a sustainable option. Don't burn yourself out just to squeak over the bar of adequacy. If this is the solution you've fallen into, consider it a short-term fix while you keep looking for better options.
2. Get Out...Now
Can you request a transfer to another team or department? If you can, do so tactfully, and accept your share of the blame for not being able to make the relationship work. If you can't transfer, you don't have to offer an immediate resignation, but start keeping an eye out for other job options. Scan the job search resources at LiveCareer and make sure your resume is up to date in case you come across a job opportunity worth investigating.
3. Talk to HR
It may seem like the HR professionals in your office spend their days processing health insurance forms, but they're also trained to handle workplace conflict, and they may be able to offer some surprising insight. Give them a chance to suggest a solution you may not be able to think of on your own.
Stay on the high road, but recognize the difference between ordinary and serious incompatibility. Address incidents that cross the line. If simple incivility evolves into behavior that threatens your credibility, your reputation, your future or your safety, don't just write it off as one more negative encounter. Take action.
If you've exhausted your other options and it's time for a major life change, LiveCareer can help. Check out our job search tools, resume building tips and career guidance, and start looking for a new workplace where you'll find the teamwork and respectful environment you need.