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Is your office a war zone? Here's help
Preeti Bose
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August 31, 2007

Ever feel your hands get all sweaty as you quiver with apprehension when you enter the office? Like you're in the midst of a chakravyooh with your opponents all around you but you have no ammunition for self-defense? This vision may trigger an internal battle between your need to keep working and fervently wishing you didn't have to go back to that same office.

Okay, let's take a snap test right away to ascertain some basic facts.

Well, if you have scored a hit for four or more, this article is just for you! 

There are usually a few general types of people and situations that make workplaces a constant battle for sanity and progress to co-exist. Here are some of the most common stressors and some advice on how to deal with them. 

~ Office bullies: The impact office bullies cast on a person cannot be underestimated. They have been known to completely overrun and demolish confidence. However, it is extremely important not to allow these bullies to make life a living hell at work. According to a recent study, almost 60 per cent of people surveyed admitted to being bullied at some point in their careers.

Says Saurabh* with regret in his voice, "I had a project head who absolutely destroyed my peace of mind at work. He picked on me at every given opportunity and came to my workstation every half hour demanding why work was so slow. I tried to tell him that if I keep getting interrupted like this, it takes me more time to go back to the task and start all over again. Finally, when I could not take it any more, I had to find myself another job."  

~ Over-ambitious colleagues: Who doesn't get inspired by super achievers who want to smash world records all the time? But, these same people can create an environment of 'fake urgency' around everybody else's tasks just to beat their timelines. While it's good to be competitive and rank in the achievers list, be careful of getting drawn into these fake battles of a race against time. They might unnecessarily drain you of energy and motivation.   

~ Overbearing bosses: Then there are the bosses who want to 'load' you more than 100 per cent at any given point of time. While most people understand business needs of optimal utilisation of resources, it is tough to understand why the environment for work has to be a "do or die" situation always.

If you are working with such a boss, my friend, strategise well. Finish your work ON time, not before or after to prevent being overworked. Keep a log of your tasks and the time taken to complete them.

~ Catty colleagues: Who hasn't had colleagues bitching about them? I have seen it too from very close quarters, but I did not let it affect me in the least.

It is not with fondness that Tanya* remembers two of her colleagues (now ex-colleagues) who would comment on everything she did. "They would criticise my work performance, my attire, shade of lipstick, and even my personal life with my husband. I told them politely that I did not appreciate such personal comments but to no resolve. They made lunchtime one of the most dreaded times for me. I had to take the issue up with my boss because it had started to affect my performance." 

It gets nastier only when they know they can get to you. So, take your opponents by surprise and keep your irritation to yourself. You just might get lucky and they will stop clawing at you once they realise that it does not bother you. After all, you are taking the air out of their sails by not giving them the pleasure of watching you react to the cattiness.

~ Lackeys and gossipmongers: Almost every office has a couple of people who will just wait hand and foot on their bosses � giving the impression that this is their only responsibility. They, along with the gossipmongers, are the 'eyes and ears' of the boss in the organisation. Be a smart player and do not cross their path. Take care of your conversations around them; you never know what might be misconstrued and brought to your boss's attention.

~ Gender politics: Though the scene is thankfully changing, many women have been kept at bay when it came to senior positions just because it suited men better to not have a woman walk in to what was considered a male domain. Take for example, the recent instance of a senior woman cop passed over for promotion.

Smoking or drinking cliques can also affect your peace of mind. Colleagues discuss many things while they de-stress over a couple of drinks. If you want to stay out of these rings, don't let your blood pressure shoot up just to know what was discussed the previous evening!

~ Situations: Appraisal time, annual functions, external seminars, office parties are some of the occasions that might again send your pulse racing. You never know if your boss will use the appraisals to get back at you, or try to embarrass you in front of other team members or make announcements that you may not like on other instances.

Instead of being hassled by work situations and colleagues, sort out your priorities in life. Identify what is important to you and then plan like commandoes in a combat. Be flexible and ready to adapt to situations. We can either be part of peacekeeping forces or be a sniper. Remember, it is a small crusade in itself to maintain your sanity at work. Stay in the clear!

*Names changed to protect privacy

Preeti Bose is manager -- training for a US-based MNC. The views expressed in this article are solely her own and not of her organisation.

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