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Unprofessional people and the oxymoron effect

Why is it bad to have colleagues like this and how to deal with them?

Posted in Workplace, Career, Czech it out!, Personal life

The first time I heard the word oxymoron was during a job interview in 2010. We were talking about my skills and how it was my previous job when he asked me if I had some difficulties here in Prague, while working. At that time I said that I didn’t notice anything so drastic but, yes, I had some problems. At that time thought it could be culture related since I am from Brazil. When I described which problems he said that I was facing a common oxymoron around here. I asked what is it and he gave me some examples. The last example was “Czech professional”.

Disclaimer: I am not targeting any nationality, but as I live in Prague the percentage of local oxymoron is higher. For sure someone living in a different country will see this pattern in a different nationality.

Oxymoron, if you don’t know, is when contradictory set of words appear in the same sentence. Like civil war, noisy silence, living dead, seriously funny and so on.

The problem I was facing was related with people who were thinking they own the office space and you would break the status quo. We all know people like this, no matter the place in the world they come from. I have 2 examples very vivid in my memory:

  • A person who goes beyond his/her job description and gets activities from other people thinking it’s doing something good, but then blames others when things start to be problematic because of his/her own proactivity (“this was your job!”);
  • A person who treats the office like his/her home and takes everything personally (“I’ll not do anything for him/her because he/she screamed at me last week”).

Of course, there are situations where both examples are in the same person.

When people behave as mentioned above the office starts to become a toxic place. And it’s easy to notice: The team leader (or manager) only needs to pay attention on where is the bottleneck. Sometimes, in some projects, a bottleneck is caused by performance of 1 or more team members. But in a toxic office the performance is not the issue, but the person itself.

If you want to recognize this behavior you should pay attention to:

  1. Self-proclaimed office stars (“Nothing would work without me”);
  2. The one who makes himself/herself busy by getting tasks from other colleagues, and blame them when something goes wrong;
  3. A person who takes everything personal in the office;
  4. The classic apple polishers.

How to deal with them?

If you are not a team leader or manager I’d recommend you to report it. The leader should be responsible for this kind of conversation. But, still, it’s difficult even for the leader as it doesn’t depend only on him. The person should be willing to understand the issues and change. Not everybody has enough self-awareness and also not everybody would be willing to accept that he/she is part of the problem. But as we say back in my country, there is always an old shoe to a tired foot. Which means this person might be a perfect fit in another department or company.

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