Congratulations! You have obtained your first job, and are ready to start your career in Corporate America. In addition to new skills and experiences, you will also meet a variety of new people. Here are some of the personalities you are likely to encounter on your first gig.
Your Work Wife/Husband
Your Work Wife/Husband is your office BFF. This is the person you turn to for snacks, Tylenol, a laugh, a shoulder to cry on, and a buddy to vent with. You can also be brutally honest with this person — if coworkers are complaining that your left overs are stinking up the microwave in the breakroom, your Work Spouse will let you know. The benefits of finding your Work Spouse are not just personal. A Gallup poll found that the highest performing teams were typically made up of employees who said they had a best friend at work. Every job is easier when you work with people you like, and you will look forward to coming to work when you have a great friend on the job. Having a Work Wife/Work Husband also means having someone you trust at work. Especially when things get hectic, knowing there is someone on your team that you can count on makes an enormous difference, both in terms of your actual performance and your outlook.
Your work Frenemy is the opposite of your Work Spouse. This person, like a Frenemy in your personal life, will play out a charade of friendship to your face, while secretly sabotaging you. The Frenemy might act like your buddy during a great one-on-one brainstorming session, and then steal your best idea and present it to your boss. The Frenemy might offer to take a project off your hands in front of your manager because you “seem overwhelmed.” The Frenemy says they are just trying to help, when really they are angling to get their hands on your project and also portray you as disorganized or bad at time management to your boss.
Frenemies at work are even more dangerous than Frenemies in your personal life, so how can you avoid them? Unlike in your social group, it can be difficult to cut a Frenemy out of your life at work. Identifying the Frenemy will also help you change your behavior to avoid their sneaky tactics. The next time a Frenemy tries to get you gossiping about the new supervisor, don’t engage. When a known Frenemy schedules a brainstorm session with you before a big meeting, don’t present your best ideas in front of them. Save your top pitches for a one-on-one meeting with your boss. Finally, you can confront them directly. If a Frenemy’s behavior truly goes beyond what is acceptable to you, call that person out. Forbes advises using “I feel” statements like “I feel like our relationship has become competitive” or “I feel like there is something going on between us that could be detrimental to both our reputations and careers”. he Frenemy gets their power from fear. Frenemies fear your success — which is why they try to undermine or destroy you — and Frenemies also fear that they themselves are not good enough. If you can show The Frenemy that you are not afraid of them, it takes away some of their power.
While a lucky few escape this person, most new hires will eventually encounter The Micromanager. This person may be your direct supervisor or a co-worker from another department with whom you happen to be collaborating on a project. Regardless of whether it is their job to manage you or not, they will offer unwarranted feedback on anything and everything you do. This is the person who sends back your email with the typos highlighted. This is the person who wants to critique your to-do list because they do not like the style of bullet point you chose. The Micromanager might recommend you start your emails with “Hi” instead of “Hey”, or sign off with “Best” instead of “Thanks”.
How can you out micromanage The Micromanager? Often their tendencies are not about you or your performance. Jenny Chatman, a researcher from UC Berkeley who studies management and organization culture, reminds us that micromanagers frequently have outside stressors or anxieties that cause them to feel they need to control situations. Chatman’s research shows that fighting back against a micromanager does not work. So how can you get out from under The Micromanager’s judgemental thumb? You have to beat them at their own game. Ask for feedback on everything. The Achilles Heel of The Micromanager is their own workload. With their nose in everyone else’s business, The Micromanager frequently gets overwhelmed with too many tasks, and simply can’t respond to everything. Start sending multiple emails to be proofread by The Micromanager before you send them. Stop by their desk multiple times a day to ask for their feedback on various interactions you have. Invite them to every meeting. Eventually, The Micromanager will back off, overwhelmed by the volume of requests he or she is receiving and you will be free to work in peace.
The Debbie Downer
Beware the dreaded Debbie Downer! This coworker will always find something negative to say, no matter what the occasion. Excited about a new project? The Debbie Downer will complain about all the additional work it involves. New computers in the office? The Debbie Downer doesn’t want to learn all the new processes — and may try to convince you that the machines are coming to replace you! The Debbie Downer can be dangerous. Spend too much time around this negative influence, and you too may find yourself crushed by her dire outlook. When confronted with this workplace menace, remember to keep it positive. Take time each day to make a list of the people and things in your life you are grateful for. In one 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, individuals who made lists of things they were grateful for enjoyed significantly greater overall satisfaction with their lives. Turn up the volume on gratitude, and you’ll drown out the sorrows of your workplace Debbie Downer.
A good first mentor can mean the difference between a dead-end job and an accelerated career path. How do you locate a good work mentor? This person may or may not actually work at the same company as you, but ensure that this individual is not a stranger. If there is no connection between yourself and a prospective Mentor, use tools like LinkedIn to uncover your mutual associates, and reach out for an introduction. A simple coffee or lunch is typically a great opportunity to start to get to know a potential Mentor. Make sure to familiarize yourself as much as possible with your future Mentor’s work. Asking questions about big career moves they made, projects they worked on or significant accomplishments in their field are always great ways to gain insight into how you too can achieve similar success.
While the Mentor/Mentee relationship is typically one about sharing advice and life experiences, a Mentor can also be an asset to your professional growth in a company, recommending you for promotions or protecting you from office politics. The Mentor is not your work spouse, so be careful not to commiserate too much. The core of your relationship with your Mentor hinges on your ability to accept feedback and advice, so remember to listen and receive advice from your Mentor with an open mind.
Beginning your journey in corporate America may seem daunting. Not only will there be new skills to learn, but new people to meet. When you prepare yourself for a variety of personalities in the workplace, there can be huge benefits for your everyday happiness on the job, and your ultimate career goals.