Is there someone at your workplace that everyone pretty much despises? You know who I'm talking about -- the person who can take a perfectly nice day and ruin it just by showing up?
Now, here's the million-dollar question: Is that person you?
Most people can relate a few stories about some obnoxious co-worker who drives everyone nuts and has people plotting about how to get him or her fired. But what if it’s you that co-workers can’t stand -- and you know it and want to change?
Well, first you must realize that it isn’t going to be easy. Whatever overbearing, anti-social and grating behavior put you at the top of the workplace “most disliked” list won’t be erased immediately. But it can be done, and if it is accomplished successfully, you and your co-workers will benefit greatly.
If you truly want to turn things around, then you’ve got to map out a strategy that will involve regaining the trust of co-workers and proving you are sincere. In other words, you've got to let go of the job strategy that says you don't need friends at work (you do) and you only need yourself for job success (wrong).
One of the first steps is to find someone you can trust to help you regain the ground you’ve lost. While it may be difficult to find a close co-worker to help you, consider someone from human resources or an ombudsman who can discreetly help you test the waters. This person can get a true indication of where your mistakes have been made with co-workers, and what you need to do to correct them.
At the same time, you and this third party should assure a supervisor that you want to make a sincere effort to mend fences. Then, you must begin changing your ways, showing others in the workplace that you know you have offended them, stepped on toes, and in general, been a pain in the ass.
Still, despite your best efforts, some co-worker's opinions of you are going to be tough to change, particularly if you've undermined them in the past. But if you make inroads with at least a few people, they can help smooth the way so that you begin to create a stronger bond than ever before. In this highly competitive global marketplace, it's very difficult if employees do not work together as a team and your co-workers may soon come to realize that your efforts will benefit them, as well.
One other consideration: If your bad behavior has been the result of a personal problem (depression, divorce, alcohol), you might consider sharing that with co-workers, telling them that you're determined to turn things around. If you're unsure whether this is a good idea, you might want to discuss the details with your third party. In general, people are much more sympathetic to these issues in today's workplace, and may judge you less harshly if they understand the root causes of your bad behavior.
Finally, keep in mind that dealing with your workplace conflicts now, rather than later, is important. Your reputation of being generally unlikable can become easily known through increased use of online networking sites. In today's competitive workplace, that can be a mistake that haunts you now -- and in the future.