How to NOT be “THAT” Co-Worker 5 Tips to Building NOT Repelling Office Relationships

Geek Speak

Shorr Success


By:  Lisa Shorr, Certified Image Consultant & Brand Building Specialist

You all know them, THAT employee in the office or colleague that just doesn’t get it.  That person who rolls their eyes or always responds to your questions in an exasperated, angry tone.  Are you picturing “that” co-worker in your mind?  I knew you were!  Every office has one or maybe two.  I call them the “Culture Crusher.”   

In the IT SMB world, the Culture Crusher is often ignored or tolerated because there is always a client or some other pressing emergency to deal with.  Taking the “I-will-deal-with-it-later” approach often leads to much greater issues.

I employed a Culture Crusher. Full disclosure, I’ve had a few of these challenging employees over the past 25 years.  As tech-savvy as this Engineer was, his people-skills, or lack-thereof, ultimately cost us a managed services client. We kept justifying his behavior because he had the tech skills our organization needed.  Had we known then, what we know now!

Our client called our office one day requesting a different Engineer because the one we assigned to their account, made them feel “stupid.”  Probing the upset client further revealed that this Engineer had a condescending tone. This tone carried over into our office and included eye-rolling, when a co-worker did not understand a tech issue.  Our Culture Crusher put a kink in my otherwise well-oiled chain.  He not only cost us a valuable client, we also lost productivity because his co-workers did not want to approach him when they had a tech issue, that only he could answer.  Are you the business owner nodding your head feeling sick to your stomach?  Or maybe the co-worker, who fell behind on completing a ticket and got into trouble because you did not want to approach your Culture Crusher, for fear of being berated?

Whether your office is a one-man band or 50 plus employees, behavioral awareness always makes the difference between building trust or burning a bridge.  A true leader is not necessarily the C-Level Executive, it is often someone who focuses on these skills:  

  1. Friendly Phone Skills – How many client IT issues can your company resolve remotely?  Cloud solutions have changed the dynamic from needing to go onsite to needing to pick up the phone to work with your clients.  It is more important now to pay attention to your tone of voice, volume and how fast you talk.  Do you or a team member have an engaging tone, sound happy and confident and speak at a slow enough pace to enunciate each word?  A phone call is often the only experience a client has with your company.  How you handle the phones sets the tone for building a relationship.
  2. Choose Your Attitude – Don’t be the angry guy!  IT is a very emotional industry.  One-minute a client is singing our praises, the next they are screaming at us because “you (our IT provider) lost our files!”  Yes, we get blamed for all tech issues, even if they were out of our control!  This emotional rollercoaster takes a toll on our nerves.  An inspirational leader, takes this ride in stride and tries hard to consciously maintain a can-do, let’s deal with this attitude.  It’s easy to let this pressure seep under your skin and ooze out of you in the form of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  This hairy green monster, often hits a plateau in their career growth due to lack of maturity and a perceived inability to handle challenging problems. 
  3. Notice YOUR Nonverbal Behavior – Did you know, “We listen with our Eyes?”  Before a person utters a first word, their on-looker has surmised their wealth, health, hobbies, and whether they are management material or not.  We make “value judgements” based on what we were taught during our childhood.  Those ideas of what you “should” wear and how you “should” act, shape the way we view the world today.  In other words, people’s perceptions create their reality.  Take ownership of your actions.  Appear groomed and professionally dressed.  Stand tall versus slouch. Smile and make eye-contact.  Send the message to your client, prospect, employee that you genuinely care about what they have to say.  
  4. Adapt to Team Culture – Here is a secret:  A key component to a thriving, fast-growing business, is a cohesive team culture, an environment that fosters collaboration. Each team member appreciates the positive contributions of the extroverts and introverts alike. Listens to the hard-chargers and is thankful for the great peace-makers.  Makes a concerted effort to share corporate values and resolve issues based on the needs of the team and company versus having their own personal agenda.  There is no “I” in team!
  5. No Geek Speak – Know your audience!  If you are speaking to a fellow techy, then go ahead and use technical jargon.  Talking to your client who doesn’t know the difference between a hard drive and a thumb drive, requires an entirely different approach.  An empathetic leader has the ability to describe a technical issue or resolution and be understood by all.  Your mission is to make others “feel” calm, comfortable and validated, not inadequate in any way.

The next time you communicate with a client or co-worker, think, how do I want to be perceived by others?  Cultivator or Crusher, the choice is up to you.

To learn more about Perception and Image in the Workplace visit Lisa’s website:

About Lisa Shorr:
Lisa has spent over two decades in the sales and marketing arena. She is certified in Advanced Image Consulting from London Image Institute and owns two businesses, Shorr Success and Secure Future Tech Solutions. She has delivered Professional Development and Corporate Branding workshops and seminars across New England. She has styled many professional women and men on photoshoots, T.V. shows and in the privacy of their own closets! Her articles on style, career development and IT, have been published in notable magazines and newspapers including PC World, Providence Business News, GoLocalProv, Rhode Island Small Business Journal, So Rhode Island Magazine and Trade Secrets Magazine. Lisa is Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Association of Image Consultants, NY-Tristate Chapter.