How Much Do I Have To Talk To A Coworker?

Question:

If I don’t get along with a coworker do I have to make small talk with her and greet her? I do undertand that I have to talk to her if it is work involved.

Signed,

Not Chatty


Answer:

Dear Not Chatty:

I assume that you have a coworker who you feel has treated you unfairly or who has done things that make you leery of engaging in any more than the basics of communication with her. Others at work probably know how you feel. Some may empathize with you and some with her. However, no one wants to be made uncomfortable by the communication barriers that coworkers build when they have a conflict with each other.

So, how you communicate with your challenging coworker will be a way for others to evaluate your effectiveness. It gives you a great chance to show your communication skills. It also helps you avoid being considered more of a problem than the other person.

A convenient way to think of coworkers is to consider them customers. They and the other people in your organization are internal customers–people with whom you must work effectively in order for both of you to get your jobs done for the business.

You don’t have to be a pal or pull up a chair and chat with every coworker. You only need to show yourself to be open to communication, courteous and responsive.

Among the things that add to effectiveness: A facial expression that is encouraging not cold and discouraging; eye contact; a tone of voice that sounds courteous not hostile; appropriate greetings in the morning and evening; including the person in a conversation when it would be rude not to do so and a number of other small things that smooth the way at work.

Also consider the oft-repeated Golden Rule: How do you want to be treated by those who don’t like you very much? You don’t expect them to seek you out for idle conversation about a TV show, but you would feel badly if they ignored you day after day and refused to talk unless it was absoutely necessary.

Almost everyone at work has a few friends with whom they are most comfortable–it’s usually obvious from the smiles, the greetings and the time spent together. Almost everyone has a few coworkers they don’t much care for. The goal is to not have that be obvious to anyone. As I mentioned at the beginning of my response–think of your coworkers as your internal customers and make it your goal to keep your communications courteous, effective and ongoing.

You and your challenging coworker will probably never be friends. She may be someone you will always need to be a bit on guard about. But, if you keep a professionally courteous approach you will help your own reputation and reduce her negative impact on your feelings.

Best wishes with this situation. I’m sure you can handle it just fine, which will make work more enjoyable for you and for those around you as well.

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.