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Dear Heidi: I don’t care for a coworker. How can I keep my attitude and demeanor professional?

Keep the end goal in mind. Search for commonalities, and keep things productive and professional.

More than 7.8 billion of us are trying to live together on one planet. Each of us is unique — with a unique fingerprint and personality. Some of us share common beliefs and values, while others oppose them entirely. Yet, to keep society viable we need to not only live together we must work together.

Our workplaces reflect how well we can work together — virtually or in-person. Be mindful of our uniqueness with respect, yet be aware of our commonalities. We all want to lead successful teams to meet common goals. Nevertheless, we are bound to work with challenging people who test our patience, tolerance, and social graces from time to time.

If you work with someone you do not care for, examine why. What is it about your colleague that turns you off? Is your colleague petty, or maybe they try to take credit for everything? Or, do they say things that are off-color or inappropriate?

Determine what is bothering you to decide how to handle it. It's important to keep your workplace productive and professional. If you work with petty people who steal ideas, say something to them — you are your own best advocate. Be respectful and with discretion say, "I noticed your enthusiasm for the idea for the new project— wouldn't it be a boost for the team if we made the new project a real team effort — credit and all?"

Or, perhaps you work with someone who doesn't share your values and says things that are offensive to you and your other colleagues. Foul language and comments should not be tolerated. Because you work with this person, consider if it would be best to say something directly or to take it to your manager or HR.

You never want to feel unsafe, but you also don't want to work in a toxic environment. Consider if this is a "one-off" situation or emblematic of the company culture. If it's the latter, help change the culture or, ultimately, consider moving on to other opportunities.

My best advice is to stay true to your values, and keep things professional. Engage your social codes: Mind your manners, keep your eye on your goals, and strive to keep your workplace harmonious. Do this, and you'll not only be more productive, you'll be happier too.


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