For many working moms, office politics is a necessary evil that we just have to deal with, even if we don’t want to take any part in it. Navigating the office environment can present its challenges, particularly if your colleagues don’t understand what you’re going through on a daily basis while raising children.
They often have little care that your toddler is teething, or that your youngest only sleeps in 90 minute bursts before waking up and crying. Leaving you with approximately 4 hours sleep, and that’s on a good night.
Some coworkers even try to use your situation to their advantage by getting in the office before school drop-offs and cherry-picking the easiest tasks for the day and leaving you to deal with the hardest jobs that no-one wants to take responsibility for.
So what can you do when coworkers and general office politics are making your life difficult? Here are some of my tips for making the workplace more manageable as a working mom.
Is a Difficult Colleague Going Through Something?
Having to deal with a problematic coworker is nothing unique to being working mother, it happens to all of us at some point during our careers. There are many approaches you can take, and they all relate to the severity of their behavior.
Firstly, try and learn as much as you can about them. If someone is being difficult with you or treats you unfairly, try and look into why that may be. It could be that he or she is going through something in their personal lives such as a traumatic divorce.
If you find that there is something, let them know that it is not ok for them to bring their emotional baggage to work, and even more so that it is not reasonable to lash out at you as a direct result of their own problems.
Find Out What Makes Them Tick
Or maybe there isn’t something going on in their personal lives and instead it’s the way you do certain tasks that irks them. For example, you may be responsible for a particular weekly report, and often you have to prioritize other more important work, which means it can sometimes be a few days late.
If that colleague depends on that report to do their job, it’s no wonder they keep nagging you and being horrible when it’s late. Sometimes a problem colleague can be placated by simply finding out what is important to them and giving it to them!
If you come across a colleague that is particularly devious and harmful, and you can find no reason explanation so such behavior then it is time to document everything they do.
Communicating via email rather than face to face gives you a paper trail so they can’t say one thing to your face and then stab you in the back later on. Additionally, if you document any serious wrongdoing you can approach your HR manager for help, or in some cases demonstrate serious misconduct on their part.
Navigating Office Politics
In terms of office politics, they are always going to be a few key players who dictate the tone of the office in general. Learn to spot the early warning signs of a toxic workplace. If no one is smiling, and the office is rife with gossip and rumor then it’s likely you’ve found yourself trapped in an unhealthy work environment.
If the reason is down to a few colleagues, then reach out to employees who the feel the same way you do and create a list of points to either relay to higher management, or address them with the person(s) in questions directly. There is no point skirting around the issue, and they may not be aware of their own behavior.
Cherish Time with Your Family
Working in any office environment can be tough, even if you try all of the tricks in the book to make it as enjoyable as possible. This is why you need to completely switch off as soon as you leave the building.
Seeing your smiling child when you come home from work and getting a big hug can be one of the best tonics to a dreadful work environment. Plan activities with your kids and spouse for days where you are likely to have a tough day at work. The thought of spending quality time with your family will help keep you motivated, no matter how much Kevin from sales whines at you for compiling the report exactly how he asked you to do it!
Dealing with difficult colleagues and office politics is an unfortunate part of life as a working mom. But using a few little tricks such as finding out what’s behind their behavior or understanding what’s important to them can make a huge difference in how manageable they are on a day-to-day basis.
Finally, focusing on switching off and spending some serious down time with your kids and spouse is vital in achieving a healthy work/life balance.
What tricks have you used to deal with difficult coworkers? Let me know in the comments below!
You might want to also check out- Working Mom vs Stay at Home Mom