This article was updated on September 27, 2021.
It takes all sorts to make a world, but what happens when you pack a bunch of conflicting characters into the same office space? Or if we use 2020 to benchmark the situation, the same Zoom call?
A severe case of chalk and cheese, that’s what.
You’ve already got one super annoying coworker in mind, haven’t you? Perhaps they’re just an unlikeable person in general; or maybe, it’s just them.
You don’t know why, and you can’t even place your finger on what caused such disdain to take root in the first place, but everything they do seems, unfailingly, to unfurl a perplexing sensation of scorn you never knew yourself capable of.
We all know that person; but have you ever considered that to others, it might be you?
Studies show that 70% of employees find that having friends at work is the largest contributor to job satisfaction. What’s more, there’s evidence to suggest that workplace friendships have become essential to wellbeing given the repercussions of social isolation this year.
Aggravating your work fellows is an unwise course of action then, even at the best of times. Be mindful of these three, subtle behaviors that indicate your coworkers can’t stand you – to reverse any damage being made to yourself personally or professionally, and to keep your coworkers on-side!
It’s generally accepted that 70 to 93 per cent of all communication is non-verbal, so if you are operating from an in-person as opposed to a virtual setting right now, detecting defensive body language from your coworkers is the first tell-tale sign that they are dissatisfied with you.
A plethora of research insists that “closed-off” body signals can immediately indicate a colleague’s burning hatred. But contrary to popular belief, former FBI agent, Joe Navarro, stresses that the “arms folded across chest” stance is not actually an indication of defensiveness, and shouldn’t be interpreted negatively.
What experts do make resoundingly clear is to watch the eyes. Eye movement is both emotionally and subconsciously driven, so if your coworker’s gaze can’t meet yours then they may be making a concious effort to veil some hidden feelings of hostility.
“Ventral denial”, when we subconsciously pivot our torso and feet away from someone we are speaking to, similarly betrays discomfort. Fidgeting, foot-shuffling or excessive neck-touching too (theirs of course, not yours!).
If you notice that your mere presence provokes bodily signals that speak of a quiet fit of anxiety, your coworkers are probably eager to be anywhere else but around you.
“Our fight-or-flight response is our bodies way of dealing with a stressor”, explains assistant professor of Psychology at Beacon College in Leesburg, AJ Marsden. “Sadly”, he goes on, “our body cannot tell the difference between an actual stressor and a perceived stressor”.
Marsden exemplifies this difference as being imperceptible between the stress caused by being chased by a knifed attacker, or simply having to work with someone you can’t stand. Sounds like an extreme disparity, I know, but that’s just human biology doing its job.
If you notice your colleagues taking steps to not to interact with you, then you may be the “stressor” in this equation.
One of the more immature ways that coworkers express dislike is by means of exclusion. Leading workplace and career expert, Lynn Taylor, says that “most coworkers won’t overtly show their disdain for you so as not to cause trouble or jeapordise their careers”.
It could be something as small as being left off an email thread, or no one taking your order for a coffee run. Maybe the conversation ceases when you walk into the room, and you’re left feeling (understandably) ostracized.
Though subtle, this kind of contemptuous behaviour has been proven to wreak more havoc on employees’ mental health than harrassment. And the effects are often felt most keenly by remote workers, who rely on strong communication to feel included.
“Several [missed] meetings can turn into lack of exposure to senior leaders”, explains EY’s global diversity officer, Karyn Twaronite, who stressed to Forbes the impact of being left out from meeting invitations, which results in “less opportunity for advancement”.
Regardless of whether your coworkers can stand you or not, exclusionary behaviour is never acceptable. If more than one colleague is acting this way, then of course it’s worth taking a hard look at yourself to suss out why.
But if we’re talking a case of social undermining, or simply holding a grudge for, say, burning their bagel? Then it’s time to clear the air, before any unnecessarily harbored bitterness can turn into a real problem.