Monday, September 11, 2000


Several strategies can help win over a co-worker

By Michael A. Crom
Gannett News Service

        Question: I was recently hired by a small, fast-growing medical products company to expand the business into the veterinary arena. I have a great deal of experience in this and am very excited about the prospect of developing what could eventually become an entire new division for this company.

        The problem is that the sales director has been sandbagging me from the day I started. She back stabs me every chance she gets. I've tried talking to my boss, the company's owner, but he says I should deal with her personally. He admits she's a little “different,” but says the clients like her so it doesn't matter.

        In the meantime, the things she's doing and saying could cost me the opportunity of a lifetime.

        Answer: My experience is that hostility rarely is a one-way street. Chances are something happened before you arrived (or shortly after you arrived) that threatened her position at work.

        I would do a little searching to see what it might be. It could be as simple as a memo praising your experience or a conversation between her and your boss in which he said how perfect you were for the job. Was she passed over for the job, for example?

        While you're trying to get to the heart of the problem, there are several strategies for helping win over this important co-worker. Remember, you don't have to make her a friend, you just have to be able to work with her. I'd try some of these:

        1. Give her a fine reputation to live up to. Tell others how wonderful she is as a co-worker, how important she is to the company, how talented a saleswoman she is. Accentuate even the smallest positive trait. Then, no matter what she does, treat her as though she is living up to that reputation. Even the nastiest person has a hard time being mean in the face of continuing kindness.

        2. Be honest with her. Tell her that since you both are there to stay, you need to develop a working relationship. Then ask what you can do to make the working relationship smoother.

        3. Apologize. OK, you don't know what you did, if anything, but it can't help to apologize anyway. Tell her it's obvious you got off to the wrong start, and you hope your misguided enthusiasm doesn't get in the way. Assure her that you want to make the company successful first and foremost.

        4. Ask her advice. If she's feeling threatened by your expertise, give her a few chances to show her superiority, especially in areas where she really does know more than you. For example, you might ask her to tell you about the idiosyncrasies of the human medical market and what she feels might be similar between that and the veterinary market.

        5. Correct errors immediately. If you find that she is spreading untruths about you, inform her that you know what's being said and that it isn't true. Don't be rude, just tell her there must have been some miscommunication, and you want to set the record straight.

        6. Don't expect her to change overnight. You can't change other people, you can only change your reaction to their behavior. Face the situation head on, dealing with each situation as it arises, and don't worry about what she might do tomorrow.

        Contact Michael Crom at


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