Maybe it's the gossip girl in accounting who makes you feel like you're back in high school, or the touchy-feely mail room clerk with five hands -- either way, you're at your wits' end. Even if you love your job, trouble with a co-worker can make you dread coming to work. Practice your conflict resolution skills before forfeiting your paycheck. If that doesn't work, find another job with people who know how to keep their hands -- and words -- to themselves.
Change What You Can
If you’re considering quitting your job because of a co-worker, clearly you’ve given up on the hope that the person can change. It's a good thing, too, because the hard truth is that you can’t change other people. The good news is that you can change yourself. If the friction between you and a co-worker is occurring because of a personal relationship, cut all non-work related communication during working hours, and sort through your problems on your own time. Renew your dedication to your job. Determine to raise your productivity levels and beat your old records. Revamp your professional goals and come up with a timeline that challenges you to get yourself in gear. Write a list detailing what you love about your job and focus on the positive. Ask your supervisor for more tasks that you enjoy, and seek out additional trainings and certifications to increase your value to the company. Get so busy with self-improvement that you don’t have the time or energy to worry about anyone else.
Call a Meeting
If your co-worker is still giving you the blues, it might be time to call a meeting. Don’t meet with your co-worker alone, since you don’t want to wind up in an epic battle of “he said, she said.” Instead, ask a mutual supervisor or a rep from human resources to sit in on your pow-wow. Bring a list of the negative or unprofessional behaviors that are influencing your decision to leave. Explain that you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, and you’re calling this meeting as your last straw. Keep in mind, however, that there are two sides to every story. Let your co-worker speak her piece without interruptions. Practice active listening even if you’re boiling inside; nod in the appropriate places to show you’re listening, make eye contact (but don’t glare) and repeat your co-worker's key points back to her to show you understand what she’s said. Try to leave the meeting with a resolution that satisfies both sides. Consider alternatives to quitting, such as changing your shift or switching departments. Put your employer on notice that you will quit if conditions don’t improve.
Save Your Pennies
If a resolution isn't possible, it’s time to start saving your money. Even though your co-worker is unbearable, don’t be forced into any rash decisions that throw you into a financial tailspin. No matter how much you want to, resist the urge to quit suddenly. Decide how long it will take you to save up at least six months of expenses, and keep working until then. Cut back on expenses in the meantime; less fancy coffee and meals out, more home brew and bag lunches.
Put it in Writing
Once you finally decide to really quit (after you’ve tried to resolve the situation and saved a ton of cash), put your decision in writing. Your boss already knows how you feel based on the previous meeting, so he shouldn’t be too surprised. Compose a professional and polite letter that clearly states you’re resigning because of irreconcilable conflicts with your co-worker. Give your employer at least two weeks notice, and offer to help find and train your replacement.
Quitting doesn’t give you permission to take off the gloves when dealing with your co-worker. Maintain a polite, professional attitude, even if you really want to upload a virus into her computer or let all the air out of her tires. Protect your reputation and take the high road. You never know when you might have to work with your colleagues again, or when you might need a letter of recommendation from your (soon to be) former employer. Don’t burn your bridges. To quote George Herbert, “Living well is the best revenge.”
Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.