Fake Snakes Are About Power

Workplace advice from Handshake 2.0 Dear Getting a Grip:  I've been afraid of snakes since I was kid.  I mentioned this to a co-worker and I’ve found a fake snake in my desk drawer every few weeks.  The co-worker thinks it’s funny when I jump in my chair, barely suppressing a scream.  I’m beginning to resent the co-worker and dread going to work.

Dear Jump:  Using your fear of snakes against you very likely gives your co-worker a sense of power over you.  In both personal and professional relationships, answers to these questions apply:  “Do you want to be right or do you want to be close?” and “How willing are you to work with this person to resolve a conflict – and vice versa?” 

A co-worker seeking the upper-hand is likely to prefer a one-up position and to thwart attempts to address conflicts as equals.  One way to test the waters is to ask the co-worker privately and directly, “What is the reason you’re doing this?”  To the co-worker’s response, a reply of “I want it stopped,” may suffice. 

Getting a Grip:  Most work conflicts involve three steps:  1) addressing the conflict with the co-worker, 2) mediating the conflict through a supervisor, and 3) deciding whether or not the lack of change, or the type or amount of change, merits you staying in the position or leaving it.


Need to start “Getting a Grip” on a personal problem at work?  E-mail your question to [email protected].

"Getting a Grip," a workplace advice column for Handshake 2.0, is written by Anne Giles Clelland.  "Getting a Grip" regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.


"Getting a Grip" appears monthly in Valley Business FRONT.  A version of this post first appeared in the December 2008 issue.

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