It is possible that you will spend more time with your co-workers than your friends and family. Here is some advice to help you create positive work relationships and deal with some difficult situations you may encounter.

Dear HR: The office gossip keeps inviting me for lunch, what do I do?

The first thing is to recognize that you do not have to go if you do not want to. Say you need to run an errand or would prefer to eat at your desk. Be careful not to share anything with them that you do not want the entire office to know…for obvious reasons!

Office gossip is sometimes legitimate. If someone is honestly frustrated with their job, they need to get it off their chest – encourage co-workers to approach a supervisor so the problem can be dealt with.

If all else fails, change the subject. Keep talk at the office light and professional and try not to get roped into complaining sessions. Remember, you can always say that you have to get back to work!

Dear HR: My boss makes comments about the way I look. Is that okay?

A boss complimenting you on your outfit or asking you where you bought your adorable boots may be their way of building rapport. Supervisors may also be tasked with enforcing the corporate dress code so it may not even be personal. However, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, there are several steps you need to take.

It is never okay for anyone to make you feel body conscious at work. If this is happening, you must tell them to stop. You can bring a support person with you to have the face-to-face conversation, or do it within sight of co-workers, but the best way to stop the behaviour is to tell them it is not acceptable.

If the comments do not stop, document all of the interactions that you have with that person and lodge a formal, written complaint. You are protected by the Human Rights Act and deserve to be treated respectfully and professionally.

Dear HR: My co-worker is so loud that I cannot concentrate. Can I tell him to be quiet?

Of course you can!

Use “I” statements, for instance, “I am having trouble concentrating”, rather than “you” statements which may be perceived as more of an attack.

Walk over and have the conversation rather than yelling across the office (kind of defeats the purpose!).

Say something like “I know you are not being loud on purpose but…”

When all else fails, plug in the noise-cancelling headphones.

Dear HR: My co-worker stands around while I do most of the work. How do I get them to step up?

Teamwork makes the dream work – unless it doesn’t!

In order to act as a team, everyone needs to feel a sense of belonging. Take the time to get to know your co-worker. Talk about light topics that you have in common and the sense of comradery will grow.

Show gratitude for the work they do get done. Complimenting them on their skills will create positive interactions.

Take time in the beginning to divide the work evenly and set reporting milestones for large projects so you can both share what you are working on before someone gets off track or behind. Remember, there may be something happening outside of your co-worker’s day job that is causing them to be unproductive. Be supportive and understanding as they may be going through a difficult time.

Article contributed by Tory McNally, CPHR – Director, Human Resources Services, Legacy Bowes