Q: My husband has a co-worker who has become a close friend. But I can’t stand his wife. They keep trying to get us to do couple things. She makes me ill – she is so into herself and shallow and annoying. How do I keep declining without them wondering what’s going on?
A: Of course they’re going to wonder what’s going on – and that’s OK! In fact, you’ve got to be willing to let them wonder. Because to keep this four-sided friendship from going further and for you to avoid wanting to bang your head against a wall, they might just need to determine that you’re shy, or a snob, or a couch potato, or easily bored, or just suffering from a particularly virulent foot fungus.
The official line is that you’re just repeatedly, respectfully “busy.” You and your husband need to stick to this in a united front. (He isn’t allowed to leave the get-together-possibility door hanging open for you to always be the one to slam.)
Considering it’s not in your husband’s best interest for his good friend to know that you think he married someone horrible, you’ve got to let them come to their own conclusions.
Q: I’ve been at my organization for 18 years. I have built up skills, work hard without being flashy and get results. Now there’s an influx of aggressive, ambitious recent college grads who think they are going to skyrocket to the top within a couple of years. I know I sound like an old fart, but they don’t respect my authority and don’t seem to understand that I’ve put in two decades here. I find myself seething sometimes. How do I get over this?
A: Old farts, unite! It’s a different problem if they are actually climbing the ladder at an unjustifiable pace, versus just acting like they deserve to. In the former, it’s something to use your power to prevent – assuming that they don’t deserve to rise so fast.
But if it’s just their attitudes you can’t stand, and they’re not truly posing a threat to your position or your organization, then this is a classic case of how to get along with difficult co-workers. Be civil and respectful, but stand firm in your boundaries, don’t engage more than you need to, and never give them ammunition to use against you. And perhaps you can do some good for all of you by setting an example they can learn from.