FARGO - Every office has its characters.
Maybe it’s someone who unfailingly brightens the day by handing out free candy.
Or the person who makes sure good effort always gets recognized with a note, or supportive comment.
But what of those other characters, the ones with habits less conducive to office harmony?
Is it possible to help them change their ways?
The answer is yes, according to Tonya Stende, chief engagement officer with Dale Carnegie Business Group, which provides training and advice to organizations looking to make their workplaces better.
Below are characters sometimes found in office settings and Stende’s take on dealing with them in a constructive way:
Mr. Cologne – Applies fragrance the way hikers apply OFF!
Stende: Most often, people wearing too much cologne probably don’t even realize they are overdoing it. I would suggest reminding them they work in close proximity to fellow employees and we need to be mindful that people can be sensitive to certain smells, such as cologne or scented lotions. We need to be courteous of our fellow workers.
Ms. Negativity – Everyone complains sometimes, but what about the co-worker who never gets off the downbeat?
Stende: People that are negative don’t always realize what their behavior does to office morale. They also may not even realize they are being negative.
I would recommend having a conversation with them and ask them questions; sometimes people will repeat negative sentiments because they may feel they are not being heard.
Most people just want to know they have been heard. A principle we focus on in training is: “Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.”
When people focus on this principle they become aware how often we do this.
Mr. and Mrs. I’m-too-busy-to-eat-lunch-anywhere-but-at-my-desk – Workaholics on their way to a burnout while missing chances to bond with fellow employees.
Stende: Remind them that they will be more productive and creative if they take time away from their desk. Taking a break is a proven way to sustain concentration and energy levels.
Also, remind them they are part of a team and that by focusing on building relationships with other co-workers they will find it increases collaboration and makes their job easier and more enjoyable.
The importance of fostering ties with co-workers cannot be overstated, according to Dawn Kaiser.
Kaiser works as a corporate trainer for the Village Business Institute, which is part of the Village Family Service Center. Prior to going to work at the Village, Kaiser logged 13 years working in human resources.
According to Kaiser, relationship building is the factor that drives success at work and employees who chain themselves to their desk, or decline lunch invitations are limiting their chances for growth.
“I have to be willing to get to know people, even if it goes against my personality type,” she said. “If I don’t have a strong relationship with my co-workers, it’s very hard to achieve true success, where you’re doing great things.”
Enlist a coach
When it comes to talking to a co-worker about an issue – whether it’s too much cologne, or being too loud – the tone and word choice of your approach are crucial, according to Kaiser, who said shooting from the hip while in an irritated state usually achieves nothing but hard feelings.
She said the first thing to consider is whether the problem is really a problem, or only a passing peeve.
If a behavior is ongoing and adversely affects a work situation, Kaiser said it is often helpful to enlist a third party as a sounding board for what you plan to say.
“Wording makes such a difference, especially in those situations because we take it personally.
“I always say, ‘Find that person who can be your coach, someone who can hear you talk through it a little bit,” Kaiser said.