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A former GE and NBC exec was fed up with her domineering coworker until she asked herself a question that made him tolerable

Shana Lebowitz
Bethany Comstock

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

 

  • Beth Comstock was an executive at NBC and General Electric.
  • At NBC, she had an annoying coworker who constantly talked over her. She describes the experience in her new book, "Imagine It Forward."
  • Instead of waiting for the coworker to change, she shifted her own mindset: What could she learn from him?

Gavin. Ugh.

Beth Comstock, a former executive at General Electric and NBC, remembers Gavin (presumably not his real name) as the NBC coworker who nearly drove her crazy.

She describes his behavior in her new book, "Imagine It Forward," cowritten with Tahl Raz: "He frequently talked over me, he didn't ask for input before deciding the answers to complex questions outside his realm, and he generally needed to have the last word in everything."

Comstock writes that she started getting anxious heading into meetings with Gavin, since she was worried they wouldn't make much progress.

All that changed when Comstock tried a new outlook on her relationship with Gavin. She simply asked herself, "What can I learn from Gavin?"

Comstock writes, "Instead of being indignant that he didn't work hard enough and took too much of the credit, I decided to use him as a teacher of how to work differently. I asked myself, What can I learn from him about working smarter, not just doing more work?"

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In an article for The Muse, Sara McCord recommends a similar tactic to deal with difficult people at the office. "Pay more — not less — attention to the undermining things [your coworker] does," she writes. "While he's operating on an extreme, you may recognize some habits you're prone to as well." And now that you know just how annoying those habits are, you can work to avoid displaying them at all costs.

Meanwhile, in an article for Forbes, Melody Wilding advises "seeing your reaction to that person as a form of feedback." For example, she writes, "Does juxtaposing your co-worker's chronic forgetfulness with your penchant for organization and systems show you that these are strengths you want to leverage more, spurring a career pivot?"

As for Comstock, she writes that cultivating a new perspective helped her develop "an imperfect but functional relationship" with Gavin. Even today, she writes, "there are still people in my life who can irritate me. Instead of seeing them as adversaries, I have learned to change my mind-set, to think of them as potential teachers."

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SEE ALSO: Former GE and NBC exec Beth Comstock is still sorry she turned down a job offer from Steve Jobs more than 10 years ago, but it's not because of the money or prestige