In one of the schools where I work, there is a woman who refuses to speak to me. I say "Good morning," tell her to "Have a good night," when I leave, and she has not once returned the pleasantry. I have NO clue what the deal is. I come in, do my job, and go home. Early twenties Jamie would have been all agitated about this, vented to work friends, and obsessed over what I did to deserve this treatment. Thirty-something Jamie, though, she's different...very different. No one in my life, up to this point, even knows about this issue. Why? For me, this is a non-issue. In situations like this, I ask myself some key questions:
1. Is this a relationship I care to salvage?
2. Is this person talking about me to others?
3. Do I care enough to do something about this issue?
Yeah, I get not liking when someone doesn't like you, especially someone you see often, but stressing over a situation does not change it. If I answer "yes" to any of those questions, I address the situation head-on. For example, if the situation I described above were a real issue for me, I could simply walk up to her and nicely say, "Hey, is everything OK with us?" If she said all is well, it's done and over. If she said there was an issue, I would be the best counselor I could be by just listening... This, too, is a tough situation, but fighting back, becoming defensive, arguing, etc. is only going to escalate the situation. We know this already, right? :)
My best advice for making workplace relationships positive are as follows:
1. Smile...a lot... I have made a habit of smiling non-stop when I am in the hallways. I smile at everyone, and I say hello. No, I'm not always happy or wanting to talk, but kids see you and can read your facial expressions (the same goes for adults who see you). If you look put out, you appear less approachable and moody. If you look pleasant, others are more likely to view you as approachable.
2. Keep your mouth shut. I want and hope that the adults with whom I work will like me, and gossiping about them will not help in that situation. If someone comes to you and goes off about someone else, go ahead and listen like you would do with a student, but do not add to the conversation. If you just have to tell someone, wait until after school hours, and tell your best friend who lives on the other side of the country... In-house gossiping never leads anywhere positive, so avoid it like the plague.
3. Investigate. Let's say that you catch wind of someone is talking smack or maybe you just get the cold shoulder one too many times from someone at work, and you can't let it go. It's time to investigate with the "culprit." If it's something that is bothering you enough, it's time to put on the big kid undies and talk to the person. Approach them like a cop talking to an informant would-without accusations, without anger, and strictly gaining information. If/when they give you information follow step #2. :) If you fly off the handle or get defensive, it potentially strains the working relationship, and you run the risk of the person feeling that you are whatever they thought you were that made them act stand-offish in the first place.
It has taken me a long time to figure all of this out and get it right, but it does work! I am fortunate to work in five different schools where I have positive working relationships with nearly everyone, because I adhere to my own advice. For the people who have an ax to grind, I let it go. OK, sometimes I laugh and roll my eyes as I'm walking through the parking lot at the end of the day, but the point is, it's their issue. I love what I do, and I'm there for the kids. Nothing will change that.