Dear Barb—Two in a Bind

Dear Barb:

I work in an office with five other girls.  I get along well with all of my coworkers except one.  Tara and I have been working together for 4 years and it has always been a bit of a struggle for us to get along.  Tara is domineering and pushy and seems to want to be in the spotlight.  She is always trying to overshadow me and my work, but she doesn’t do this with the other girls.  I get along great with my boss and I wonder if Tara is jealous of our relationship.  She always tries to point out areas where I may have been able to do things more efficiently, or possibly missed something I shouldn’t have.  My boss attempts to remain neutral, which she does for the most part.  A couple of times I asked Tara why she would feel a need to point out little errors I may have made, and she seemed to brush me off and say I was overreacting.  I don’t think I am overreacting, but her behaviour is beginning to wear on me, almost to the point where I am considering leaving my job.  What is your advice, is there a possible way to resolve this issue or would I be better off going somewhere else?

Thanks, Lori. 

Hi Lori:

Your situation is not uncommon.  We spend so much time with coworkers that there is no way to completely avoid conflict.  Because we work in close quarters, there is no way to really avoid contact either.  Also, since it is a work setting, we need to be careful with the words we use to handle this conflict.  We have to remove our ego and take the time to listen to the other person.  Conflict in the workplace needs to be managed professionally and there are effective ways this can be accomplished.  Unresolved conflicts in the workplace will follow you home and impact your family life.  You and Tara must address this issue before it escalates.  It may turn out it was simply a misunderstanding.  Suggest a time and place where you and Tara can sit down and discuss the issue face-to-face.  Speaking face-to-face is much more effective than through emails or texting.  Facial expressions relay more than can be expressed in a typed message.  Often simply taking the time to meet with someone face-to-face will dissipate the situation.  Remind each other of the fact that this is a workplace and you both want it to be as stress-free as possible.

Plus, the conflict between you and Tara will affect your workers, thus making for a tension-filled atmosphere.  By keeping an open mind and trying to see the other person’s point of view, you can work toward a resolution, maybe not 100%, but into a workable solution.  The only exception would be if you are being treated poorly because of your race, sexuality, or religion, then you need to address your concerns with the Human Resources department.

I hope this information has been helpful to you Lori.

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