Difficult coworkers

रागद्वेषवियुक्तैस्तु विषयानिन्द्रियैश्चरन् | आत्मवश्यैर्विधेयात्मा प्रसादमधिगच्छति

Bhagavad-Gita, chapter-2, text 64.
rāga means attachment; dvesha means detachment; ātma-vaśhyair means one who has control over.
Meaning of this verse is: “But one who controls the mind, and is free from attachment and aversion, even while using the objects of the senses, attains the Grace of God“.
difficult coworkers

The fast paced startup workplace culture can be a breeding ground for stress and conflict. Difficult colleagues, demanding deadlines, and unexpected hurdles are the norm, not exceptions anymore. So how then are we to navigate the tricky situations, thrive in this environment and still sleep peacefully at night?

Step 1: Self regulate your sense to remain calm

The above verse, far from Bhagavad Gita, may hold profound insights for achieving inner peace and fostering a more harmonious work environment. It does not advocate for shunning the world or becoming a passive observer. Instead, it encourages us to engage with our surroundings while self-regulating and maintaining a balanced state of mind. It suggests that one should engage with the world and its objects, but without being swayed by raga (attachment), the tendency to cling to favorable outcomes and dvesha (aversion), the resistance to undesirable situations.

Step 2: Focus on the task at hand

Imagine your business counterpart pushing for use of dark patterns in the user onboarding funnel to achieve higher conversions without considering rational arguments about loss of trust in the brand. Reacting with anger or frustration (dvesha) only intensifies the situation. On the other hand, clinging to the hope that they’ll magically change their mind (raga) is wishful thinking. The key lies in disciplining your senses and emotions. Focus on the task at hand, communicate clearly if possible with data, else using the brand guidelines & founding principles, and explore solutions collaboratively, all while remaining calm and objective. By doing so, you can move through life & work with senses under control and a mind that is disciplined and focused.

Step 3: Solve the problem, not blame

Similarly, when things break, which happens all the time at work, finding someone to blame rarely helps solve the problem. Pointing fingers at others makes them defensive or aggressive depending on their personality, creates friction and delays getting to the solution. It is always helpful to get all hands on deck to solve the problem first, and only then get to the root cause analysis of systems, processes and people that broke down and caused the problem in the first place.

Step 4: Lead by example

Renunciation of the world doesn’t necessarily lead to peace, but rather the disciplined use of the senses does. When we react impulsively based on whether we “like” or “dislike” someone’s behavior, we lose sight of the bigger picture. Don’t get dragged down by a coworker’s negativity or emotional outbursts. Freeing oneself from the dualities of like and dislike, attraction and repulsion, and the emotional rollercoaster, one can attain a state of equanimity. This state of equanimity is referred to as prasadam in the above verse in Bhagavad Gita. This state equanimity is characterized by mental clarity, emotional stability, and the ability to approach situations with a sense of composure. Coworkers including those who were being difficult, would notice this quality and eventually word gets around of how well you lead by example.