What do you do when you don’t trust your coworker? How do you work with someone who consistently leaves you with a feeling of suspicion? How do you protect yourself from a member of your own team? While this is a challenging situation, it is certainly not uncommon. In our jobs, we have to work with all sorts of people, some of who we may not like or even trust. If you find yourself in this situation, ask yourself the following questions:
Has your co-worker done something to make you distrust them? Is your suspicion of your coworker based on something that they actually did? Is it something that you witnessed, or is it something that you just heard about? While you shouldn’t ignore a coworker’s reputation, it is important to give them the benefit of the doubt. If your distrust is based on something that your coworker did to you, remember “everybody deserves a second chance, but nobody deserves a third”.
Is there an atmosphere of distrust at work? Your feeling of distrust towards your coworker may have more to do with the organizational culture at your workplace then it does with either of you. Do you find yourself distrusting not just one, but several of your coworkers? Is your working environment extremely competitive? Do you and your coworkers spend more time trying to outdo each other than you do working as a team? If the suspicion is part of the organizational culture, then it is unlikely to change. You need to either accept it, or find another job.
Is there something that you are doing that is making your coworker target you? When you are in a conflict with a coworker, there can be a tendency to view yourself as the victim and downplay your contribution to the situation. Make an effort to be a little more objective. Is there something that you are doing that is irritating your coworker? Sometimes by making a small effort to compromise, you can turn an enemy into an ally.
How can you protect yourself in this situation? Usually if you feel threatened, there is something behind it. It only makes sense to take the necessary steps to protect yourself. Follow the rules and don’t do anything that your coworker can use against you. When dealing with your coworker, try to get everything in writing. If you can’t, make notes of your interactions with your coworker that includes dates, times and witnesses. It sounds a little paranoid, but even if you never need the notes, you will be more comfortable knowing that you have them.
What is the long term solution? This can’t go on forever. You cannot indefinitely remain in a situation where you feel threatened. It is stressful and you will never truly be able to thrive. You need to decide what you’re going to do: Are you going to just do your best and make a decision not to worry about it? Are you going to deal with the situation directly and confront your coworker? Are you going to try to find common ground and work together? If you can’t make peace with this situation, then you may need to find a new job.
It can be very uncomfortable when you feel suspicious at work. You are never able to relax or let your guard down. Don’t let this situation continue; make the effort to determine exactly what is going on, and then either address the situation or move on. Life is too short to be walking on eggshells.
(Written by Karen Bivand)