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Three Tips for Achieving Workplace Success Despite Stubborn Coworkers

Three Tips for Achieving Workplace Success Despite Stubborn Coworkers

Few things are more frustrating than having to work on a project with a coworker who you just know will stubbornly oppose all your suggestions, even if they're good ones. It's almost like they say "no" the second you move your lips. At worst, this kind of behavior can result in a failure to complete projects for your superiors or ensure you spend hours of extra time completing a task the hard way. 

Fortunately, you  don't have to just swallow all your good ideas and resign yourself to a lifetime of frustration. Here are a few strategies I learned that helped me work positively with these kinds of coworkers and get around the following situations.

Problem 1: The coworker who won't share information voluntarily.

Time and again, you've asked this person to provide you with information that's pertinent to your job on their own, without you chasing them. Regardless, their communication skills remain poor, and you're continuously left guessing. This is especially damaging if this person is your superior and you're becoming less and less clear on what you should be working on.

Solution: Let's say you've asked them to share goals or a list of projects each week that they'd like you to complete, and it's yet to happen. Try writing down what you're planning to work on and what you'd like to accomplish, and go over it with them in your weekly meeting. Ask if they have anything to add. When I've tried this, I got the information I was looking for and some suggestions from the other person that let me know I was on the right track.

[Related: Establish a Gossip-Free Workplace]

Problem 2: The automatic no.

It's become a pattern: You suggest ideas that will grow your brand or help your team and are shot down almost before you get to finish. If you ask why, the reason is usually pretty flimsy: They didn't really think about it, and whatever it is, they're rejecting it to avoid having to do more work.

Solution: There's a few things you can do here (note: I am not talking about situations where your manager turned you down but you want to override them). First, talk to your other team members about it if you feel you can. What do they think of the idea? Is it something the whole team would like? If you gain majority support, ask them to back you up, and present the idea again. In other cases, it might be more helpful to pitch the idea again to a manager who supersedes both of you, especially if it's in line with goals they've asked you to achieve. If the other coworker protests, simply tell them you were instructed to go ahead by their superior.

[Related: Implementing Psychological Safety at Work]

Problem 3: The coworkers who make working on a project with them nearly impossible.

You've just left the meeting with instructions to work with several others on a project and turn it in as soon as you can. Unfortunately, you're not included at all. You're not aware of the meetings taking place, your attempts to include yourself are rebuffed, and you have to decide between tattling to someone that you were barred from participating or simply hope the assigning manager doesn't notice you didn't contribute.

Solution: Focus on your own duties and your other projects if your offers to help are continuously rebuffed. At times, I've found it helpful to remind higher-ups when they ask about certain projects that those are handled by other colleagues who've got it covered. It's also okay to be honest here: I once calmly informed a supervisor who kept asking me to participate in a project (to no avail) that I had no training or experience with it since the prior manager had me working on other things. Follow this up with a positive, though. Rather than just say no, I ended by telling her ways in which I could help and following through on tasks she assigned to me. 

Overall, trust yourself, and don't be afraid to calmly speak up. I've occasionally gone ahead with an assignment anyway even after being told no, especially if I knew beyond a doubt it'd be a big hit. Risk taking that pays off shows you to be a professional with great instincts, and believe me, the original "no" was completely forgotten.

[Related: Why Great Employees Leave “Great Cultures”]

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Carrie Stemke is the Senior Editor and Event Content Producer at AccountingWEB, a publication for accounting and finance professionals.


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