Ask the intern: My new colleague is driving me mad
“Currently I am interning at my dream job. When I was hired the company also hired another intern in the same position. Therefore, we are sitting together and doing the same tasks. I’m beginning to find her difficult to deal with. She tends to try and look over and see what sources I’m using and asks me overly personal questions. Normally I would try to avoid her, but obviously at work I can’t. I’m also aware that we are both competing for the same possible full-time position. I’m not really sure how to behave around her. Do you have any advice on how to deal with difficult coworkers?”- Alice
Hi Alice, thanks so much for getting in touch. This is a tricky situation that lots of people find themselves in while interning or even once they have secured a full-time position. When dealing with it you will need to be a bit careful. I’ll share with you my top tips for dealing with a difficult colleague in the workplace.
1. Always stay calm
The most important thing to do in this, and pretty much all situations in the workplace, is to stay calm. Having an outburst and shouting at your colleague may make it look like you are the problem employee. You may see your dreams of a full-time position fly out the window. Maintaining a calm and polite persona, even during possibly difficult conversations, will keep you looking professional and will show your boss that you know how to handle yourself.
2. Try and understand where she is coming from
It may be difficult, but trying to understand the reasoning behind some of your colleague’s strange behavior may help you to begin to get along with her. There’s always a reason for why people act in strange ways. Maybe she’s nervous, homesick or struggling at work? If she’s copying your work maybe it’s because she doesn’t know exactly what to do. Try to be considerate and helpful, ask how she is or if she needs any help. At the very least this will make you look good to your boss. You can also consider that maybe she is simply trying to make friends with you? Why not invite her out for lunch? This may seem counterintuitive if she is irritating you, but you may find that she is completely different outside of your work environment.
3. Avoid complaining about it to your colleagues
Although it may be tempting, do not complain about your situation to other colleagues, even if you’re friends with them. This will give other people in the office a bad impression of you. You don’t want to come across as the office gossip! It also may make other colleagues distrust you slightly. You don’t want others thinking that you will be negative about them as well. One of the biggest benefits of an international internship with The Intern Group is the fantastic contacts you make. Make sure you don’t jeopardise this by putting forward a negative image of yourself.
4. Rant about it
Although you should never rant to other colleagues, sometimes it’s healthy to rant about your frustrations to someone. It may release some of the irritation and allow you to let some of it go. Just make sure that it’s a friend or family member who has no way of accidentally passing on anything you’ve said back to the office. They may also have a few more tips for you on how to deal with difficult coworkers .
5. Try and get some space
As much as it’s nice to think that all of your issues can be solved by just trying to understand and accept her behavior, sometimes it is just too much. When you start to feel like this the best advice I can give you is to get some space, and clear your head. Maybe during lunch, you could see if other people from the office are going out and try to jump on board? Even just take a walk, have a wander and grab a coffee or quick snack. Fresh air can do a world of good.
6. Ask her questions
A great way to divert any questions that make you feel uncomfortable is to ask questions of your own. Why not ask her some questions about her life? People love to talk about themselves, and if she’s talking, she’s not asking you any awkward personal questions. You may even find out that you’re quite similar, you are doing the same internship, so you must have some common interests. Another great use of questions is to deflect her looking over at your computer. When she does it, why not ask her if she needs any help? This will show, in a subtle and calm way, that you can see when she does this, and she may stop and ask you for help instead.
7. Look for the positive
Finally, the last piece of advice I’ll give you is to look for the positive. Everyone is different, if we were all the same, the world would be a very dull place. It’s important to have people in your life that push you in different ways, they can help you grow. There’s something positive about everyone, try to look at your colleague in this way. It sounds cheesy but everyone can teach you something.
You’re never going to like everyone that you meet at work, even if it’s your dream job. But, don’t let it ruin your experience. Understanding how to deal with difficult coworkers is an important part of everyday working life. It can help you grow personally and professionally. Mastering the skill of dealing with difficult people will be helpful again and again, throughout the rest of your working life.