The University of British Columbia tells us something we've always suspected but needed a study for reassurance: anxious employees who always walk around the office trying to figure out if they're being sabotaged and snubbed by their co-workers will eventually start getting sabotaged and snubbed by their co-workers. Geez, dude! We're not out to get you, okay? Actually, you're getting so freaking annoying that I've changed my mind. Don't invite him to lunch with us!
In the end, the anxious employee becomes what he or she fears most: a target for ridicule who is not invited to Subway with the rest of the gang.
So what's the answer to this age-old workplace problem? Never, ever claim that you're a victim of a co-worker's evil, passive-aggressive, underhanded ways. Just suck it up and keep it to yourself, even if it's really happening. Hey, don't get mad at me; it's what the researchers say you should do:
"It may be best to ignore impulses that tell you that you're the victim of office politics," says lead author and Sauder Prof. Karl Aquino, whose study was recently published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.Smile, even though your heart is breaking with suspicion over the way the office administrative assistant just looked at you. This "just shut up already" thinking also applies to the insecure employee who needs constant reassurance and personal reinforcement. "How am I doing here? Could you give me some feedback?" Yes! Our feedback is to please shut up because it's the third time today you've fished for a compliment!
Prof. Aquino explains that it's natural for people to wonder how others view them, especially when social acceptance in the workplace is often rewarded with power and financial compensation.
"However, our research shows employees should do their best to keep their interactions positive and ignore the negative. As the expression goes, kill them with kindness."
Perhaps the most annoying aspect of insecure, paranoid co-workers is that they spend so much time worrying about the latest, non-existent conspiracy that they don't get very much work done, and their fears might start to rub off on susceptible co-workers. Before long, the office ranks are swelling with amateur conspiracy theorists analyzing the hidden message behind today's catered lunch. Last year, management ordered the good sandwiches from the good sub shop. Oh God, it means we're all about to get fired! It's all written in the stars, and in the salami. Or maybe the boss is just trying to save a few dollars in tough times? Just say, "thanks boss, this is great!" eat your lower-grade sandwich, and get back to work.
Bottom line for paranoid employees: be the change you want to see for a change. Talking about the latest office conspiracy against you might make it come true, simply because your weary co-workers are tired of listening to you. Not to make you paranoid or anything.