6 Ways to Cope with Irreconcilable Differences at Work

There are relationships where both parties decide that it is pointless to continue. They do not and probably will not ever understand each other. They are constantly in a state of disagreement whether verbalized or not. Some type of discontinuance, whether separation or divorce is contemplated to dissolve their partnership. They have reached the boiling point of irreconcilable differences.

There are similar circumstances on the job. There is a cold, but cordial work environment. The job may even be hostile, intimidating and dead end without opportunities for advancement. People cannot get along with their coworkers or their supervisor. The tension in the air becomes unbearable but resignation is out of the question. Quitting for a variety of reasons would not be in their best interests. The economy is treacherous and finding a new job is risky. They have a family to feed and financial obligations.

Let’s bring the situation closer to home and make it more relevant. Your manager may be a jerk. She is making life unbearable. She cannot get rid of you because you are doing your job and have not broken any laws. She would rather have her person working in your position. She cannot remove you for fear of a lawsuit.
Additionally, you may have a skill set that the organization values and the manager cannot afford to get rid of you, but you no longer find the job challenging. You want to be promoted to another position, but they cannot see you doing any job other than your current assignment. You are stuck in corporate cement as opposed to career quick sand.
You are at an impasse. You can’t live with her and you can’t live without her. You have to cope with irreconcilable differences.

A manager for a small company inherited an employee who was a powerful, persuasive salesperson, but ultimately could be a liability to the organization. Management loved this individual and viewed him as a sales representative for life. However, the sales person had aspirations to be promoted. The more he was held to corporate standards, the more frustrated he became. One day in frustration, he stood up in a restaurant, pointed his finger at his boss and said these words; “I understand that you don’t like me and have never liked. If it was up to you I would’ve never been hired. If we can’t get along, we might as well get it on” (a reference to physical confrontation). The rep was at his wits end and surely felt he was coping with irreconcilable differences.

How do you cope with irreconcilable differences, when you cannot walk away from the job? What do you do when you have no place to go and are unable to leave your position? You must first acknowledge that the situation is toxic. A negative state of mind could damage your health and other areas of your life. Conduct an accurate assessment of your performance and career aspirations. Recognize that you may have played a small role in the bad relationship. The six tactics below may help you cope with irreconcilable differences at work. You may wish to debate these suggestions with co-workers and friends in order to arrive at a strategy that will work for you.

1. Make the most of the situation
2. Work hard and try to get transferred?
3. Work hard and try to get your boss transferred?
4. Seek counseling through the Human Resources Department
5. Recruit advocates – mentors, coaches or allies
6. Schedule a meeting with your boss

Make the most of the situation

This is generally seen as a grin and bears it approach. This does not necessarily mean for you to suffer in silence. You may look on the brighter side of things, such as being grateful that you have a job. You may display a positive attitude and devote yourself to the quality and quantity of work needed to excel. Through this entire process you must throw yourself into doing your best work, although you may not be fully engaged.

Beware of persistent anger. If you are constantly angry, you may develop ulcers, headaches and an overall feeling of grumpiness at work and at home. People around you will suffer with you; work performance will be stunted by your low level of engagement, because you are not happy. You can be patient and tolerate your plight. Your boss may leave the department through resignation, termination or promotion.

Work hard and try to get transferred

People have been known to put their nose and shoulder to the grindstone in hopes of working their way out of their circumstances. The prevailing philosophy is to work as hard as you can and be rewarded for your diligence and discipline. This strategy can work, unless your manager is working to undermine and missed represent your effectiveness. You can be driven to succeed, even in a toxic environment when you are growing your skills and working toward a goal.

Another manager, through networking with other departments, may request your services. They may become aware of new skills you required. Obtaining additional education and training may work in your favor and increase your value in the eyes of others.

Work hard and try to get your boss transferred

The same methods used above may catapult your manager into a new position. You may breathe a sigh of relief, but if the underlying problems have not been solved, this individual can harm your career aspirations from a distance. If there are misunderstandings that need to be addressed, you may have to face them courageously alone or have a trusted mentor intercede on your behalf. It may seem insincere, but you may have to act as if things are not as bad as they are, in order to survive. You may have to use your acting skills to minimize friction and give the illusion of a harmonious working relationship.

Seek counseling through Human Resources

Many people are reluctant to go to the Human Resources Department to complain about their manager or the environment on their team. They fear HR is working as the right arm of leadership and will sabotage their employment. Some companies have an Ombudsman who is present to hear employee complaints, which makes disclosure easier. If individual courage is viewed as foolhardy, the power of a group may be necessary to add additional credibility to your complaints. This is often the last resort when the person feels they cannot take it any longer; when the benefit outweighs the risks.

You have heard manager say,” you don’t have to like me or love me, but you must get the job done.” The same applies. Your manager or coworkers do not have to like you or love you but they must respect you, as you get the job done.

Recruit advocates – mentors, coaches or allies

You may have a mentor, coach or ally on speed dial or retainer to help you plan your strategy for coping with a manager who is out of control. They can advise you on the next steps take in dealing with your predicament. If the manager goes beyond acceptable rules and regulations, they can advise you on the approach to HR. They may also be helpful in calming you down and allowing you to see your role in any of the difficulties. It is always good to have consultants to bounce ideas off of to learn from their seasoned perspective.
You may have a trusted friend in higher places who can hear your tales of woe and help craft a strategy to make your life easier. They may talk to the guilty offending party or help you get reassigned.

Schedule a meeting with your boss

You can call a meeting to discuss your feelings and job performance. This will enable you to clear the air of all misunderstandings, so that your boss knows how you feel. Ask for their assistance in helping you achieve your goals for the betterment of the organization. Solicit feedback on the things you can do better to help them in their job.

If you try this approach before and it did not work, be careful. If you heard others try the same tactic and suffered, scratch this suggestion from your list.
A good leader would take your information and check the perceptions of others in your group. The appropriate corrective actions will strengthen the leader’s ability to achieve personal and team objectives.

It is important to strengthen the relationships with people at work. Invariably, difficult relationships will exist in the workplace. You may have to address the problem head-on, because walking away may not be an option. As uncomfortable as it may seem, coping with irreconcilable differences may be the only course of action.

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

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