Most self-storage professionals work in small offices, often with just one other person. This can be tricky to navigate when it comes to personal relationships. Most facilities have a manager and an assistant; but the workload is shared, and lines can be blurred between the positions. You can end up either loving or hating each other, and there can be problems with both.
Hate to Love: Dealing With Office Friction
It can make for long workdays if you and your officemate don’t work well together, don’t like each other, have opposing political views, etc. In self-storage, it’s difficult to avoid close contact, and it’s worse if there’s a disagreement. You can’t fill the day with conversation, so you end up with hours of silence. When you go home at the end of the day, you’re so worked up and tense it’s hard to let things go, which can make problems fester.
There may be times when you wake up dreading another day in the office. When problems persist, the thought of going to work can weigh heavy and make it difficult to function. It can take a toll on your well-being. I’ve been there.
So, what can you do? You can’t change the other person; but what you can change is your own perspective. This helps cancel the negativity you’re carrying. Sometimes, what we make out to be awful, annoying or dreadful is really just different. When you can step back and look at the situation clearly, it won’t bother you so much. You won’t stew over it all night long, and you’ll wake up with a better outlook.
I recently had to deal with this type of situation. I changed my thinking from “I’m so tired of her crazy theories” to “Wow, her out-there ideas sure are entertaining! What a great laugh!” Instead of thinking “I can’t stand another one of her political ideas,” I thought, “That poor lady sure is deluded. Too bad. She’d be a great asset to our side.”
In my case, I was dealing with a Negative Nancy, so I smothered her with sweetness and positivity. She couldn’t help but respond favorably—well, to some degree, anyway. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. It takes a little time and effort, but it can be done. The payoff is changing the entire tone of the office. My coworker slowly changed her viewpoints on some things. She even started trying to sway others to her new stance!
Love to Hate: The Downside to Office Friendship
On the other hand, you may work very well with your office mate. Perhaps you’re able to easily carry on small talk during the quiet moments. You get to know about each other’s family. You encourage and uplift one another, and in time, you learn to work well as a team to get things done. You text on your days off. You spend time together on evenings and weekends. Ultimately, you find yourselves to be friends more than supervisor and subordinate.
What happens when that great relationship deteriorates but you still have to work together day after day? If you’re the boss, how do you handle things if it becomes necessary to terminate this co-worker who’s been your friend for months or years? This is a precarious situation, but you have to abide by the decisions of your owner or corporate office. It’s made doubly tough because it looks like you took part in the decision from leadership.
I’ve been in this situation more than once, and it’s no picnic. It’s very difficult when you’re losing an employee and friend at the same time. I’ve had the other person be angry with me because I either had or appeared to have a hand in this life-altering event. In every case, my former co-worker has chosen not to speak to me again, and I had no choice but to accept that decision. As a result, I’ve been subjected to nasty, negative online reviews directed personally at me. Thankfully, I was able to get those removed.
When you fire a friend, you almost always lose that person from your life. It’ll be hard on you both. It’ll be up to you to pick up the pieces, reorganize the office (and your outside life), and move on. Just know things will get better. It’s true that time can heal all wounds. You’ll adjust to the new normal, and you and your office will settle into new routines. Life will move forward, and you will survive.
Paula Dukesherer is the property manager for Bolsa Chica Self Storage, a 1,300-unit, privately owned property in Southern California. She has more than 12 years of experience in self-storage with a strong background in customer service. She’s also a moderator for SelfStorageTalk.com, the industry’s largest online community. For more information, visit www.bolsachicaselfstorage.com.