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Let’s Get Together Thursday – The Dark Side of Collaboration… April 3, 2014

Posted by Brooke Ahrens in Check this out!.
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collabIt’s happened to all of us. Despite our best efforts to avoid them, or to hide, we find ourselves working with someone difficult. That co-worker who never stops complaining, or telling you how your predecessor did things the “right way”, the one who over promises, and under-delivers, but has no problem taking credit for all the good work he didn’t do, or the one who only sees the downside to every possible idea or solution you provide. We’ve all experienced the dark side of collaboration, and dealing with these uncomfortable situations is a crucial part of ensuring our collaboration efforts continue.

We can’t be good librarians if we aren’t working with others, so knowing how to navigate a variety of personalities is a key part of our job. I’m certainly not an expert in conflict management, and my MLIS program did not include a course in workplace communication, but here’s what has worked for me, and some tips from others I trust.

  1. Put your best foot forward – If I’m not in a good mood, I postpone working with someone who doesn’t bring out my best. I’ve learned, through experience, that 2 grumpy people don’t create amazing results.
  2. Divide and conquer – Instead of doing everything together, assign tasks and due dates, and then work independently. Everyone gets some alone time, and has the opportunity to do part of the project their way.
  3. Find the humor – One of my favorite quotes sums it up nicely: “One loses many laughs by not laughing at oneself.” Sara Jeannette Duncan. At minimum I can always bring laughter to our small dysfunctional group experience.
  4. Be humble in your vast knowledge – Sometimes lying to myself helps to explain away the bad behavior of others. I remind myself that my librarian skills can very intimidating and then revisit step #3.

I asked my twin 9 year old daughters what they do when they have to work with someone who is hard to work with. Here was their sage advice:

  • Be nice. Even if the other person isn’t nice, you should still be nice. Other people will see that you are nice and will want to work with you next time.
  • You just deal with it and don’t get upset. Sometimes you have to work with people who aren’t good to work with. It just happens.

What suggestions or tips do you have for working with difficult people?


1. Doug Johnson - April 3, 2014

I summarized some findings from a number of popular books about working with difficult people in this old column: http://www.doug-johnson.com/dougwri/difficult-times-difficult-people.html Hope it is helpful. Doug

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