Nicole Havelka Consulting
in Change Leadership - Community - Creativity - Mindfulness - Organizations

The Antidote for the Difficult Co-Worker

white woman with brown hair pulled back cupping her hand by her ear to hear better. The words, "The Antidote for the Difficult Co-Worker," overlaid the photo just past the cupped hand.

You’ve probably walked down the hall at the office and inwardly braced yourself when that person walked by. You may have avoided a project not because you don’t want to do it, but because the team working on it is so dysfunctional. You may choose the same one or two co-workers at the expense of the new person just because it’s better than disrupting the equilibrium of your workflow. You may have been happy to work at home for the past year because it made it easier to mute certain people and teams on Slack, Zoom and other technologies.

Now you’re facing the probability that you will be going back to the office and dealing more directly with the problems that may have been put on pause. Meanwhile, many other problems have cropped up over this past year of rapid change. You may have more new people who you’ve only met through a videoconference screen and online message boards. The familiar difficult people may now be more challenging because of how stressed they are. People who were once reliable collaborators may be off their game. Every team may be functioning poorly because of the overall level of exhaustion.

So why not start with a blank slate? Invite your team to take this opportunity to listen – really listen – to each other. Here’s a simple activity you can start any meeting or team retreat with:

  1. Ask people to pair up.
  2. Invite each person in the pair to share about their greatest learning, challenge and/or success from the past year for a specified amount of time. (1-5 minutes)
  3. While your partner is sharing you may ONLY listen – no questions, comments.
  4. Switch the partner who is listening/talking after the first round.
  5. Repeat with different partners as time allows.

Invite reflection from the larger group to reflect:

What did you learn from this experience?

What is it like to listen?

To be listened to?

What did you learn about your co-worker that’s new to you?

What did you learn about yourself?

How might knowing the people around you better impact the ways we work at a team?

Watch more about these listening techniques on my recent Mindful Monday video:

The goal in using listening techniques isn’t necessarily for each pairing to become best friends, but it is to forge empathy for each other. The goal is to create a level playing field where all can be truly heard. The goal is to form a team of listeners, which will help move the work forward, even when there is disagreement or conflict.

Give it a try, and observe how your new team forms and flourishes.

Go Deeper: I would be delighted to facilitate a “Return to the Office” team-building event and/or listening session with a special blend of organizational psychology, mindfulness practices and leadership development. I can also help managers, executives and owners get the self-care they need in order to do the heavy lifting of change. Schedule a free consultation to learn more.

About Nicole: Nicole Havelka has honed her mindful leadership skills as a change agent in every organization and team of which she’s been part. She is a reverend and a Registered Yoga Teacher at the 500-hour level with specialties in many forms of meditation, including iRest Yoga Nidra, restorative yoga, yoga for youth, and trauma-sensitive yoga. She is the owner and lead consultant at Nicole Havelka Consulting.

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