Carrie and Allison are both junior level employees who work for Glen – one of the middle managers in a mid-sized accounting department.
Glen is by all accounts a frustrating co-worker and even more frustrating boss. He shirks responsibilities and is always willing to delegate his duties while at the same time taking credit for anything good that comes out of the organization. He is out the door at 4 p.m. every day while everybody else in the department – both above and below his level – work until at least 5:30. He also seems generally unaware of how his department operates and tone deaf to its mores.
Carrie and Allison both struggle in their interactions with Glen and are very aware of his faults. Carrie gets caught up in her dislike of Glen as a coworker and avoids him whenever possible. Carrie and Glen have had screaming matches about Glen’s behavior and the whole department feels uncomfortable whenever the two are forced to interact.
As a result, the upper management of the organization has pegged Carrie as a problematic employee. They have the impression that she does not work well with others and is, perhaps, immature.
Allison is equally cognizant of Glen’s incompetence as a manager and at many aspects of his job but she also recognizes that Glen is very good at talking with current clients and schmoozing potential new clients. She thinks that Glen is certainly in the wrong job for his skill set and bemoans the work that lands on her desk that should really be done by Glen, but she doesn’t have the antagonistic relationship with him that her coworker Carrie has.
Allison sees that there are things that she could learn from Glen that would make her a better accountant as she progresses in her career. By focusing on these things she sets herself up to improve and grow as an employee instead of feeling trapped by bad management. At the same time, upper management at the organization sees her as a hard working team player. If a higher level position were to open up they would be much more likely to consider somebody like Allison as opposed to Carrie who appears to be high maintenance and hard to manage.
The ability to recognize good qualities in even the most frustrating colleagues may pay off in the long run and even in the more extreme cases, there is little to be gained in fighting every inch of the way. Life at work always has some qualities of a performance. Others are watching, discussing, and evaluating the behavior of coworkers. They don’t necessarily expect employees to admire one another, but they do expect them to manage their relationships well.
Your ability to manage difficult coworker relationships is considered especially informative.