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October 29, 2009

Coworkers: Are they responsible for your stress and bad health?

I’ve had a few jobs in my time: word processing, filing, payroll clerking, teaching preschool, teaching ESL, and a few others. Most jobs are essentially the same, once you boil down the frills: You show up, you do your thing, and they either pay you or they fire you, depending on whether you rock or your suck. There are days you love your job, there are days you hate your job, and there are days you’re not really sure if you love it or hate it, depending on what’s happening at that particular moment.

The responsibilities may vary. The pay will certainly vary. The reason for taking the job in the first place will likely vary, depending on what’s happening in your life. But the greatest, most important variable will be your COWORKERS. Here are a few you’ve likely come across:

The Two-Face: Ooooh boy, I’ve known some two-faces in my time! The two-face coworker will be very kind to you, until your back is turned. They will chat amicably, they will offer to help with projects, they will support your ideas, until their first opportunity to smite you. You will be left shocked that this person has done this to you, but don’t feel special; you likely weren’t their first or last victim. The two-face coworker thrives on causing problems for other coworkers, because they know that they themselves are not good at their jobs. They make YOU look bad, so no one else realizes how terrible THEY are.

The TMI: You hear about everything, from their terrible PMS cramps to the fact that they’re afraid their spouse is sleeping with someone else. A simple “Good morning, Bob” turns into a 20-minute schpeel about Bob’s colonic, Bob’s awful ex-wife or who knows what else. These coworkers are needy, lonely people, who don’t seem to realize that no one else wants to hear about their toe fungus.

The Gossiper: Similar to the two-face, the gossiper will spend any available time gossiping about whoever is not in the room at the time. They will approach you softly, looking around to make sure no one else is around, and offer you “secret” information that I guarantee they’ve already told to 3 other people. Do you think you’re in their confidence? Think again. Remember the Spanish proverb: “Whoever gossips with you will gossip about you.”

These are three coworkers I’ve had to deal with at most of my jobs, particularly my last job. I won’t get into details about that exact job, but I will say that the environment was incredibly negative, and it took a major toll on my health.

By the end, I was barely getting through my day. I woke up in the morning eager for the day to be over. I spent my entire day clock-watching, hardly able to contain my excitement when my day was finished. I suffered from chronic headaches, fatigue, and my mood was constantly irritable. My skin broke out. My weight fluctuated. Ironically, I had just begun working on the Health and Safety project

Why am I writing this? After all, I don’t even have a job right now. The reason I’m writing this is that the place where I was most recently working, Fabulous Private School, was the first time I’d worked in a place where people were, shockingly, friendly, easy-going, and focused on their work. What do you think happened to me? That’s right – no headaches, no fatigue, my skin is getting under control and my mood completely turned around. I looked forward to going to work every day. Working with people who don’t make you want to commit a homicide is a largely overlooked, but also important aspect of your career. Even if the money is good, even if it’s finally something in your field; if you wake up in the morning wishing you had the plague so you didn’t have to go, it’s time to look elsewhere.  Find coworkers who make your experience better, not worse. See the difference a livable working environment makes!

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1 Comment(s)

  1. Hoo | Oct 29, 2009 | Reply

    This is not a bad summary.

    Me, well, I come to work, ring debtors all day, every day for weeks on end and go home. On the 20th of the month I collect my pay and look forward to retirement. My co-workers are mostly a pretty good, hard case, bunch which you have to be in my line of work.

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