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How to talk to your co-workers

American actor Joan Crawford (1904 - 1977) sits on a sofa, reading a book with her pet poodle, 1940s. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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We have Alison Green on Marketplace Weekend every month to answer your questions about the tricky, awkward or downright strange parts of being at work. Her new book “Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work,” features new advice plus letters from readers featured on her popular blog of the same name. It’s out next week, but you can read this crucial bit about talking with your co-workers right now.


Relationships with co-workers can be tricky. You spend an enormous amount of time around them, but you generally don’t get to choose who they are. There’s professional pressure to maintain reasonably good relations with them, which means that you can’t always speak your mind in the way that you might with friends or family — and yet their behavior can have a huge impact on your quality of life at work, and sometimes on your work itself. On top of that, there are often internal politics to navigate, which can make even the most straightforward conversations feel fraught.

Given all of this, it’s understandable that you might be hesitant to raise an issue with a co-worker. But so often, just approaching the problem in the right way will get you the results you want without introducing the kind of tension you might fear. In this chapter, I’m going to give you specific wording to help you do that.

The “Ask A Manager” book, out next week.

First, though, I want to lay out some key principles that you can use whenever you need to approach a co-worker about something uncomfortable:

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