Try not to take things personally, even when unhappy co-workers intend for them to hurt you. Remember that you are so much more than just an office manager, a temp worker, a high school science teacher, an accounts manager, or an advertising executive.
Work to live; don't live to work! You must learn to let go of grudges and to set aside past histories with some of your co-workers.
When you find your emotions flaring and you're tempted to react, stop yourself and remember what's really going on: You're in the midst of a battle and the first shots have just been fired. This is the time to say a silent prayer, remember your true calling, and respond with patience and a professionalism that will astound those around you.
If you are not easily ruffled by difficult personalities, then you will increase your ability to remain cool in the heat of the battle. Your decisions will be more objective and levelheaded and you will be able to keep the work goals in mind as opposed to operating out of your personal moods and preferences.
OIL AND WATER It's helpful to understand some of the dynamics that contribute to interpersonal friction on the job. Like trying to mix oil and water by shaking the bottle again and again, many Christians believe that if they just act nice around difficult personalities that eventually those people will change and become nice too.
But "nice" doesn't always cut it, especially when you use it to avoid confrontation and direct communication. True kindness isn't afraid to look someone in the eye and tell him or her the truth, even if we know that this isn't what he or she wants to hear. You will garner much more respect for yourself and your beliefs if you act on kindness and honesty rather than "niceness."
Unfortunately, school doesn't teach conflict resolution; churches don't either. Often we do not learn it at home, so we step into workplaces either unwilling to confront, or—at the other extreme—unwilling to resolve conflicts. If conflict is not dealt with, it can manifest as obnoxious attitudes and discontentment.
Are you able to resolve conflicts, simply and efficiently, seeking out the common good? When confronted, can you listen to what the other person is saying or do you talk over them, debating or defending yourself?
Can you forgive the other person so that you do not pollute the environment with hostility? If not, your gifting, education, or skill may take you to a higher level and give you opportunities, but your poor character will ultimately destroy everything you work hard to accomplish.
When reconciliation seems difficult, jealousy may be the underlying combustible that fuels some of those fiery relationships. The colleague who starts rumors about you may be envious of your gifts, your education, or your looks. The manager who seeks to undermine you at the board meeting may be jealous of your relationship with the boss.
If you sense jealousy is an issue with someone, make an effort at praising their strengths or commending them for work well done. I'm not advocating flattery or false praise; if your words come across as insincere, that will only escalate the problem. This is a great opportunity to subtly minister to someone by building up his or her self-confidence.
As surprising as it may be, other believers in a hostile work environment can often pose unexpected challenges. Instead of being each other's prayer partner or ally, you instead become competitive and combative, bringing out the worst in each other. If this occurs, you must stop and realize what the enemy is about.
If the devil can create dissention and division among believers in a given workplace, then he's killed two birds with one stone. He has not only diluted the potential power that you could all experience as a united energy cell of God's children, he's also used you to undermine your witness to nonbelievers.
LEARNING AND GROWING When we learn to get along with all the various types of people in our workplace, particularly those we find challenging, there is a double benefit. Not only will our work go smoother, but we will also become better, stronger men and women.
Most of us gravitate to people who think like we do, however, I have learned that the best teams are not comprised of people who perform the same functions; great teams require diverse gifting. It is an amazing asset when you can work with various types of people and build teamwork and fraternity eight hours a day.
God uses trials with difficult people to build our character and to increase our own store of maturity and wisdom. By attempting to avoid or ignore those who are so different from ourselves, we are often avoiding the very training that God has provided for us to advance to the next level. Be grateful when difficult personalities create challenges in your workplace and know that God is indeed equipping you for your future.