21 Jun Haters at work and how to deal with them
Originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald 21 June 2017
If you’ve been over the age of 12 for five minutes you’ve probably noticed that not everyone is going to like you. In fact, some people will positively hate you and go out of their way to sabotage you. In life you can just leave the haters alone and hope they self-destruct, but at work they’re harder to get away from. So what to do?
First up, don’t take it personally, and don’t try to work out why. People will hate you for a whole variety of weird and wonderful reasons, all to do with them, and nothing to do with you. So, straighten up. Tell yourself you can deal with this and do not let this person make you a victim. Look people in the eye and be personable and polite at work, (even to the hater as much as you can). Above all, play it cool. The hater may try to provoke you into unwise or emotional scenes in order to make you look foolish. If you do feel you’re going to lose your cool, simply walk out of the room and take deep breaths. Don’t bite back.
The way most haters work is to spread damaging but unspecific gossip about you around the workplace, so keep diary notes, all emails and records relating to the hater’s treatment of you that you can find. And don’t try to get revenge by spreading harmful gossip about your hater, even when they’re spreading malicious gossip about you. Nobody really likes gossip, it will only make you look (and feel) bad. Instead, just avoid your hater as much as possible. Make efforts to strengthen your other social ties within your workplace, join the office social group or just invite a co-worker out for a walk at lunchtime. Physical exercise, especially if it works up a sweat, will help to relieve any feelings of helplessness you may be feeling.
Try to avoid situations at work that involve drinking alcohol, especially if the hater is there. Alcohol breaks down your defences and loosens your willpower and sense of self-control. Remember you’re not the one at fault here, and you’re not a victim. Have one polite orange juice to socialise, then leave with your composure intact. Hopefully, the hater will get drunk and make a fool of themselves instead. If the hater continues to try to provoke you while you manage to keep your cool they may go too far and do something that obviously betrays their true motives. Now you’ve struck gold and can go, armed with your diary, copies of emails and notes to human resources or your supervisor.
Above all, good luck! Anne Lamott once said that hating someone is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die. The hater is providing you with valuable life lessons about how to manage your public reputation and the value of self-control and respect at work, so just think of all you’re learning and thrive on, without the rat poison.