Disgruntled, Unpleasant Employees At New Job

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about rude and disgruntled coworkers: My main coworker does nothing but complain about the supervisor

I started a new engineering job last week. It has been seven days and it just feels bad there. My job isn’t the problem, it’s that half the department is just plain rude and disgruntled. My main coworker does nothing but complain about the supervisor who he claims pushes him too hard. Some of these people did not even think to say hello to me on my 1st day, 2nd day, 5th day. Nothing. I am usually good at blocking out politics and other crap and getting my job done, but the atmosphere is thick and nasty. It’s actually bothering me. Advice

Signed, Disappointed

Dear Disappointed:

It would be very disappointing to start a new job with high hopes only to find the new coworkers to be unwelcoming and unpleasant. Let me share some thoughts and see if they can be useful to you.

1. Lou Holtz, the famous football coach, said, in 2007, “Nothing is as good as it seems. Nothing is as bad as it seems. Reality is somewhere in between.” Colin Powell said something similar in one of his rules to live by, “It ain’t as bad as it seems.”

I wrote something similar in my day planner in 1979 and again in 1984 and again in 1991 and yet again in 1994, so apparently that wisdom is something that many of us have discovered for ourselves! Here is exactly what I wrote: “Remember, no job is as bad or as good as it seems at the end of the first week. Start next week as though it is new, except now you know your way around.” I still have that day planner page from my 1979 copy! It is almost always true that the stress and challenge of the first week can make everything seem extreme–both good feelings and bad feelings.

That doesn’t mean things are as they should be, but at least it can give you the confidence to stay committed to being effective there and to believe that there are employees who want to feel positive.

2. Your coworkers may be as negative as they seem, but perhaps not. Your coworker may simply be posturing a bit–showing that he is not impressed by a supervisor and also trying to convince you that he is working very hard but being mistreated, in case someone has told you otherwise.The employees who haven’t said hello may be waiting for you to take the first step. Or, they may simply be lacking in social skills. They may mean to be unfriendly, but probably they do not. One of the ironies I have noticed in working with literally thousands of employees is that they all THINK they are friendly, work hard and are easy to get along with. (It must be like saying you have a good sense of humor when you fill out a dating ad. You know some of those people don’t have a good sense of humor!)

3. Consider your primary focus areas right now: *Doing the job the way your supervisor and manager wants it to be done. *Learning the rules, procedures and requirements of the job. *Learning about the culture of this specific workplace. *Beginning to fit into the team.Make some goals for yourself and work toward them. One goal is that at your first performance evaluation or within the first six months, you’re going to be considered a strong member of the group and your supervisor will think of you as outstanding.One way to reach that goal is to get a copy of the performance evaluation that will be used. You can get that from HR or from your supervisor. Tell them you think that will help you focus on the important areas of work there, so you would like to see a copy.

Then, look for opportunities to demonstrate the areas being evaluated, like, Teamwork, Problem Solving, Interpersonal Skills, Job Effectiveness, or whatever the areas are.When you’re busy doing good work in that way you will be less aware of some of the things going on around you…and you’ll know you’re making your own employment more stable.

4. Work to gain influence with your coworkers and your supervisors and managers. I often mention the three requirements for that: Be credible, be valuable, communicate effectively.You will need to show that you can do the work required, and that you can be of value to others. That might be as someone who cooperates or someone who supports or someone who volunteers. You’ll find the ways. Then, you must talk and write in ways that reach out to others appropriately.

5. Use your supervisor as a resource. You didn’t mention talking to him or her and that is a crucial responsibility of yours. Consider setting up a time next week when you can go over his or her impressions of your work after the first week. Take the initiative for that.You shouldn’t say anything about the negative attitudes of others, even if he or she does. Instead, speak positively about your expectations for your own work. Give your supervisor a chance to be effective in his or her relationship with you. Ask him or her if there is any advice that would be helpful for you.6. Pay close attention to how you present yourself at work. Is your appearance, hygiene, facial expressions and behaviors conducive to people wanting to talk to you? Hopefully it is. Make it a point to say hello to everyone every day, without being disruptive or inappropriate. Start being part of the team instead of apart from it.

You may find that this job will not be what you want—and down the line you might move on. Or, you may identify some people who seem more like you and find friends there who make work more fun. If half the people aren’t pleasant, there are probably some who are. Or, it could be that you will simply exist and not enjoy it. I hope that’s not the case and it doesn’t need to be. You can at least find enjoyment in the work and feel that you are gaining knowledge and skills that will be worthwhile to you in the future. Stay pleasant to everyone and give yourself a chance to be open to them rather than blocking them out. Maybe your positive approach will make a change in one or two. If not, it will at least be better for YOU! Best wishes. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.