Thrive in a Difficult Work Environment
Julie Jaqua has found herself in a rare situation: She and her coworkers love going to work each day at GCI Group, a public relations agency in Los Angeles.
"The environment is warm and friendly, yet professional," she says. "Even as an intern, everyone treated me with tremendous respect. This creates such a wonderful environment that even with the stress and difficult tasks, I enjoy my work and learn new skills."
Most of us are not as lucky. But don't fear. We can all survive, thrive and stay healthy in the office even without a friendly, supportive work environment. Here's how.
Forget About Fate
Don't leave anything in your career to chance. Put together a profile of your ideal career and employer. Andrea Kay, a career consultant and executive coach in Cincinnati, recommends including your ideal corporate structure, management styles, industry and corporate values.
Don't wait for your employer to initiate discussions about job performance and expectations. "Check in regularly," Kay says. "Find out how you're doing and if your manager's expectations are the same ones you're working on."
The better you get along with coworkers, the easier your job will be and the better you'll perform. "It's much easier to work with folks if you get along," says Lisa O'Neill, a public relations account executive at Trinity Communications in Boston. Make an effort to put aside personal differences for the sake of your working relationship.
Give coworkers and subordinates credit for their contributions. Dick Lyles, author of Winning Ways: Four Secrets for Getting Great Results by Working Well with People, says that competition with coworkers can be fatal. "Embrace this attitude: I win only if you win, and we all win together," he says.
A static knowledge base quickly becomes outdated and worthless. "Be sure you're in a job where you're going to keep learning," says Anne Pauker, president of The Pauker Consulting Group, a human resources consultancy in Princeton Junction, New Jersey.
Find a Mentor
There's no substitute for the wisdom of others. Pair up with a mentor who has the skills and insight you need. "That's not necessarily an all-perfect or influential person," says Pauker. "It's someone who can help you learn what you need to get ahead."
Living and breathing your job is a surefire path to failure. You'll burn out quickly if you don't maintain a healthy balance between your work and personal lives. Be clear with your boss about your personal obligations, and don't let work take precedence over them.
Organize after-hours activities for you and your coworkers. The chance to interact on a nonwork level can strengthen your working relationships. Some companies, like GCI, have social committees that plan events each quarter. Jaqua says that jazz concerts, dinner or special events are great ways to relieve work-related stress at GCI.
Control the Damage
Most of us will fail at some point in our careers. Some of us will get fired. Don't despair, says Kay. Be honest about your share of the blame and take away a few lessons. "Create a list of lessons that you may have learned from the situation," she says.
Pursue Your Passion
If you love what you do, you'll do it well. "If I don't feel passionate about something, I don't have time to do it," says Pauker. "That's the filter I use." Be just as selective; choose a career and a job that you know will be personally fulfilling.
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