Some marriages last too long for their own good and end badly. The same situation often occurs in the workplace, says Nejolla Korris, a certified fraud investigator and member of the American Society for Industrial Security. Korris says a series of stages similar to those in a love relationship can occur between a worker and a boss. Under the worst circumstances, both types of relationships can end in violence.
“It starts with love at first sight. You think you’ve found a job you’re going to stay with for 20 years,” says Korris, who heads Korris Investigations, an Edmonton, AB, firm specializing in workplace fraud issues.
It’s a rare person who gets along with everyone. If you do and manage to avoid locking horns with your supervisor or co-workers, you may be able to stay in the honeymoon phase, or something like it, for years.
However, most of us experience conflict on the job, often with a boss. It can happen in a flash, over something as seemingly minor as questioning a task or decision, says Korris.
Taking some of the following steps can help you prevent minor disagreements from turning into situations that cannot be resolved:
If you think you’ve come on too strongly and offended someone, swallowing your pride and apologizing quickly might put a patch in a road that could otherwise quickly turn bumpy. If a spat isn’t resolved, Korris says your supervisor soon will wonder if you are the right person for the job and you may think, “Gee, I can’t be myself. I can’t criticize or question.”
Learn from your mistakes. If speaking your mind gets you into trouble with a boss or co-worker once, find someplace other than the workplace to vent your frustrations.
Like elephants, many bosses never forget. Letting time elapse in the hopes the other person will cool down is no substitute for an apology and a chance to clear the air. Since many people hold grudges, you might find yourself being shut out of meetings and decisions, criticized by your bosses at every turn, and shouldering an impossible workload.
A worker who feels helpless, abandoned and betrayed or unfairly picked on will often turn to co-workers for support. They may listen and nod sympathetically, but don’t count on them to come to your defense, because they don’t want to put their own job security on the line. Co-workers might also gossip your story straight back to the boss, making a bad situation much worse.
Korris says employees whose pride is wounded will often dig their heels in and rebel when they feel mistreated.
“There’s theft of time, excessive sick days, your grandmother’s died for the 18th time…it’s this whole entrenching thing where you are thinking, “You’re not the boss of me.”
By that time it’s far too late to work it out with your supervisor. If you are gritting your teeth and staring into the darkness on a Sunday night, dreading Monday morning, the only happy solution is to find another job.