Dear Woo Woo Girl: I am at odds with my co-worker. She is overly competitive and a little pushy. I don’t feel that I am heard much, and when I do push my ideas forward, I feel bad afterwards. I am uncomfortable with aggression. I find myself seething over it when I go home at night and can’t let it go. I just feel like I am not respected. We are supposed to be a team but I am the invisible co-worker. Signed The Invisible Co-worker

Dear Invisible Co-worker:
If only we were all family. Life would be so much easier. We could say what we want, yell and scream if our feelings are hurt, then hug it out. It’s a different world at the office. We have to keep up appearances, maintain our composure and keep smiling. I for one hate working in an office. I am not good at politics even though I understand what I should do to get ahead. The truth is, I am just not interested in beating someone out, although I DO understand how hurt, frustrated and diminished one can feel.

Like everything, consider it an opportunity for self-growth. A lack of respect means someone is not giving you the attention you feel you deserve. They are taking your limelight and diminishing your worth. There are a few steps you can take to work through this. It’s not a disaster, but an opportunity to challenge yourself and build new skills. Because the real issue is why are you allowing yourself to feel disrespected?

Here are some quick and easy ways to deal with your co-worker and your feelings.

1. Be the Best You Can Be:
Making it about the work should be a priority. Take the personal game out of the equation.
“Keep your eyes on your own work and making it as stellar as possible. Don’t succumb to playing the competition game—you’ll never “win” against a particularly competitive colleague, and there is no battle anyway. Compete only against yourself—do great work that people can depend on and aim to continually improve.”
This will serve you in the long run, and you will gain the reputation of someone who delivers above and beyond.

2. Cultivate Relationships:
Search out those co-workers who support your team. Massage your meetings with them so they get to know you are the nice, understanding one- but mean it.  The workplace can be toxic, but it doesn’t have to be. People appreciate others who are both sincere and easy to work with. This separates your reputation from your co-workers and you will feel like you have backup amongst people who appreciate you.

3. Remain Calm:
Returning aggression with aggression just leaves a bad aftertaste. It doesn’t create an environment that creates juicy ideas or promotes an ideal work environment. It definitely won’t garnish respect because everyone is on the defensive. Learn to be assertive, which really means, “I hear what you are saying, but here’s what I think.” Take your feelings of being slighted out of the equation.

4. Check Your Read of a Situation:
This is my personal favorite. Sometimes someone makes us uncomfortable because their approach is different than ours. They react in a way we wish we could. Or, they are truly clueless about how they come off! (Many of us are!)
….make sure that maybe you haven’t misread or misunderstood the situation. If reaching out to this coworker for a private one-on-one over a cup of coffee is an option, give it a shot. Talk about how you don’t want to compete or diminish their accomplishments, and let them know you’re not trying to one-up them. Maybe it’s all a misunderstanding. Before you make an enemy of a coworker—even in your head—make sure they’re truly adversarial and not just awkward.

5. Limit Contact:
You don’t have to spend your entire day side by side with your coworker. You can limit contact by sending e-mails joking it is so much easier to get your thoughts down on paper, than face to face. You can control your space, and who walks in it even if your cubicle is right next door.

6. Feeling Bad About Being Assertive is About You:
You mentioned that it made you uncomfortable about being assertive and you went home angry. There is nothing worse than feeling the need to say something, and feeling bad and mad about being forced to sand up for yourself. It’s a no win situation because we feel we have been pushed into standing up for ourselves. But guess what? We should!

All too often, people avoid being assertive because they do not want to see themselves, or be seen by others, as aggressive or selfish. With practice, you can change your communication into a form which is more honest and direct. It will become easier to resolve problems and to get your own needs met more often, while still respecting the needs of those you love, or live with. Once the assertive communication style is established, it is not difficult to maintain. It becomes what others expect of you and, more importantly, what you expect of yourself.

It is a skill to win people over, and encourage them to trust and hear you out. Unfortunately we have to do the work, and confront our demons, expectations, and perceptions of others. It’s not impossible.
Speaking up also means we need to be conscious of what we want, and not in a reactive mode to what someone says. We want to be considered, which means having ongoing conversations with ourselves and understand what that means. Then self-respect follows which is the more important part of this equation.
Spiritual Exercise:  Yoga for Self Respect!