I have always been challenged to get along with and be accepted by my peers, whether in school or at work. It’s something I’ve really tried working on lately, as I want to develop a stronger relationship with my coworkers (particularly at BR). What I’ve found, though, is that changing my working relationship would, in many ways, create more problems than it would fix.
Today I drove a coworker home, and she let slip that a lot of people don’t like me. Well, I already knew that — so, curious, I asked why. She is terrible at giving concrete examples, but here is what I gathered:
- I am an overachiever.
- I am a brown-noser.
- I am a tattler.
Listed as such, these three traits are terrible — and honestly, it hurts a little to know this is how I am perceived. But in the course of the conversation, I realized that these are over-exaggerated words for what I am actually proud of about myself:
I am an overachiever.
I work really hard to do really well at my job. This is how I sell absurd amounts of clothing over the course of a weekend, and I’m honestly proud of that work. Because honestly: where would the world be without overachievers? They are the people who frequently push boundaries and often are more successful. So faced with overachieving and being average — well, I’d rather be the former.
I am a brown-noser.
I have a good working relationship with my leadership team. I often stay late to make sure things get done or come in on my day off because I was asked. I do my job the way it’s supposed to be done — by reporting when I find a detached pricetag (which could indicate theft) or by board-folding all the shirts (because it honestly looks better, even if it takes ten times longer). I’ve been a brown-noser since I was a kindergartner, and while it’s something I struggle with because it frequently singles me out amongst my peers…well, I’d rather have a good relationship with my boss than a poor one.
I am a tattler.
This one is a hard one, because I have struggled with this all my life. It is a term which honestly hurts my feelings, as it has such a negative connotation. It is usually tightly tied with being a brown-noser, and it’s an action I frequently take without even realizing how it appears.
Frequently, I “tattle” because someone is slacking off and trying really hard to avoid work. In that case, I will ask a leader for help because the less they do, the more I have to do. I don’t care if you get to leave at 9pm — I have to stay until 11pm, and if you talk instead of folding shirts, then I have to come behind you and fix it later, and that’s just frustrating. On the other hand, if I try to confront my peers myself instead of going to a leader, two things will happen: (1) they will not take me seriously, and (2) they’ll think of me as a nosy bitch and meddler, which is equally bad.
The second instance when I am called out is when someone is being dishonest about their work — once, I reported internal theft (employees stealing from the company), and I have been known to report “stolen” sales or BRCs. Sales are “stolen” when one associate does most of the work with a customer, but another associate gets the credit. This is a stupid attitude to have, since sales can be “split” at the register, giving both employees credit for the work they’ve done. The other day, I was working with a customer for two or three hours, acquiring quite a pile of clothes to purchase. She had to leave the store for an hour or so, and when she came back, another sales associate began helping her. Trying to be honest and communicate well, I told him that she had a large pile of clothes behind the register, and that he should go let the cashiers know to split the sale between the two of us. He waved his hand and kept walking — as if to say, “whatever.” He then attempted to claim the entire sale as his own when he escorted the guest to the cash register. Frustrated, I asked a leader for advice, and she said she would talk to him. So did I “tattle”? Yes. But I’d already attempted talking with him, and he had brushed me off.
I stand behind my actions and character. I will not change being an over-achiever, a brown-noser, or a tattler (though, as I’ve said I have serious anxieties about that last word). I believe that these attitudes are the sometimes exaggerated perceptions of qualities which I value in myself: working hard, the maintenance of a good relationship with my leadership, and honesty.
However, I would be stupid not to change some of my behaviors in an attempt to soften the perception that some of my coworkers have and improve my working relationships. Some of the actions I’m working on:
- Acknowledging my peers more often for their successes, and never asking for acknowledgment about my own successes. Praise for others, humility for myself.
- Continued attempts to improve communication with my peers — meaning I must be willing to have a challenging conversation, as well as ready to give a peer space when they are being difficult.
- Sucking it up more when people slack off. Also known as: not getting frustrated when others are slacking off, not calling them out on their dishonesty, not talking shit about them with other employees, and especially not pointing it out to managers. If they have poor work ethic, that’s their deal.
- Changing my diction when asking others for help (getting a size, helping run clothing back to the floor, etc.) — every little bit of politeness can help change someone’s perception.
Most importantly: I am going to work really hard to always be pleasant, to always have something nice to say, and to always do a good job. I know and respect many of my fellow employees: hard workers who are universally liked. So I’m going to pay attention to them, and see what I can learn. I think a large part of it has to do with “sucking it up,” as mentioned above. While I honestly struggle with letting others get away with bullshit…I guess it’s a life lesson. All that should matter is that I do my own job, and that I do it well.
Finally, I am repeating this over and over to myself: don’t let it get to you. There are people who will always dislike me — they might be jealous that I’ve sold more, they might be annoyed by my friendly relationship with my leaders, and they might be angry that I’ve reported their dishonesty. But their attitudes and perceptions cannot and will not change my underlying character:
I will not let my own work ethic and moral code be negatively affected just so that I can be friends with everyone.
I would like to say that I do have a good relationship with about 70% of the people I work with at BR — I get along with almost every cashier and most of the sales support (all the people who put the clothes back on the floor); the biggest opportunity for improvement is my relationship with my fellow sellers, where my good relationships are about 50/50. But honestly, I have a better relationship with more people than not — I am merely exploring actions that I can take to improve those working relationships which I find challenging on a daily basis.