Pssst. Yes, dear friend, this post on showing grace is meant for you!

The Simple Trick to Showing Grace to a Difficult Coworker

The Simple Trick to Showing Grace to a Difficult Coworker

Is your 9-5 existence punctuated by frequent sanity checks, uh, checking your 401(k) balance to temporarily sooth your anxieties in a high stress workplace?

Feeling frustrated, annoyed, and irritated?

Tired of dealing with difficult people in a dysfunctional work environment?

I can relate. Been there, survived that.

The corporate, nonprofit, government (domestic and foreign), and academic worlds have their fair share of aggravations.

When the aggravation is a coworker, customer, stakeholder, or boss, how do you rein in your frustration and show grace?

Three Tips on Showing Grace

Here’s a simple lesson learned early in life from my mom to help me be more tolerate of difficult people, difficult situations.

It’s so simple, it’s facepalm material.

  1. Find at least one good quality in the person (or situation) causing you grief and angst.
  2. Focus on that quality when his or her shortcomings rear their ugly proverbial heads.
  3. Bonus points if you can find common ground–whether it be a hobby, a mutual acquaintance, or a burning desire to eat kimchi (yep, made you read!).

When you have identified that person’s good quality, somehow giving grace becomes easier.

Giving grace is something I have worked on all of my life without putting a name to it.

Well, in the past, maybe I would have said I was giving someone the ‘benefit of the doubt.’

But giving grace is deeper than that.

Simple Trick to Showing Grace

In a former workplace, six months after starting a new job, I learned that a coworker fabricated lies regarding what transpired during my job interview.

The future co-worker told management that I had relayed back to her inappropriate remarks that other colleagues purported made to me during the interview. (My interview consisted of several ‘meet and greets’ with various stakeholders and future colleagues).

False claims that I had discussed my interview with an employee in another department.

Falsely accused of making inappropriate comments to me, these future colleagues were reprimanded by the Human Resources department without a full investigation.

I was in shock when I learned this. Say what?!

I was truly upset that the person in question manufactured lies about me and these colleagues in an attempt to sabotage my being hired.

Finally I understood why it took so long for the hiring manager to reach a decision. This explained why I was invited for a lunch with senior leadership after several rounds of inteviews (over the span of several days) when an administrative position would not customarily warrant this attention.

I had two options. Confront the person in question or ignore it.

I have a conflict-avoidant personality, so confronting the person was not likely to happen.

Instead, I opted to take the high road and never spoke about it.

I could have held on to the anger and remained upset, but after thinking it over, I decided to focus on that person’s positive traits. Not an easy task as this person was manipulative and had lost not only my trust, but my colleagues’ and had the department walking on egg shells in their dealings with her.

Yet, I managed to give her grace. Instead of focusing on her shortcomings, I thought about the good.

We shared a common bond as parents. She was so proud of her high school daughter. As a single mom, she struggled. I could relate to her struggles, having been raised by a single mom (and later, temporarily became a single mom myself after my children’s father and I parted ways).

When I left the organization, I could have easily raised the issue. But I opted not to do so.

Truth be told, I thought it was sad that someone could be so insecure to the point of sabotaging someone’s job prospects. I figured out the root of this person’s insecurities, or at least one cause, took the high road, and mentored her. I encouraged her to go back to school and praised her hard work.

Life is too short to be bitter and harbor longstanding grudges. In searching for a definition of grace, I stumbled upon this lovely quote:

Grace is Rest – Grace is the feeling of pure relaxation. If in grace, the person who appears to be working hard is actually experiencing relaxation and ease.
(Art of Grace, Accessed July 25, 2017)

Showing grace not only demonstrates compassion to the person with whom you are frustrated, but also helps you become at peace with yourself.

Have you been frustrated lately with a coworker, boss, or overall work environment? How have you overcome your frustrations?

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