No matter how much you love your job, how cool your boss is, or how great your perks are, you are, eventually, going to become annoyed at a co-worker. Trust me. When you spend 40 or more hours at work all week, sooner or later someone is going to hit that one nerve that makes you see red, raises your blood pressure and has you envisioning a grand exit that turns you into an instant workplace legend.
Hopefully moments like these are few and far in between, but it’s smart to have to have a game plan for dealing with colleagues who test your patience.
Of course, there are different levels of irritating. I’ve taken some real-life, common annoying work scenarios and organized them from least to most annoying, with some tips on how to solve (most of) them.
Level 1: Wish You Wouldn’t Do That
The co-workers in this category aren’t bad people, they just happen to have some bad habits. (Chances are, you’re not perfect either, so do your best to show grace.)
Communication and building rapport at work help productivity. Engaging in a 20-minute conversation every time you see your colleague at the coffee machine, does not. My favorite tactic for shutting down a conversation is engaging for a minute or two, and then saying, “I need to prep for my next meeting!” and walking away. Rinse and repeat. Check out this article from The Muse for more tips.
This one is right up there with nails scratching on a chalkboard. According to the amazing Alison Green of Ask a Manager, asking the offending party to chew more quietly is acceptable. However, if I’m being honest, I rather listen to those chalkboard nails than ask someone to lower the volume on their chewing. Bravo if you are braver (or less awkward) than I am, but my suggestion on this one is to learn to love noise cancelling headphones.
Confronting a loud typer is slightly little less awkward than confronting a loud chewer. In a perfect world, where no one’s feelings get hurt, saying, “Hey neighbor – mind typing a little less aggressively?” would be perfectly acceptable. However, that’s not the world we live in, and you don’t want to risk offending anyone at work. If it’s someone you have a good relationship with, try to use humor to diffuse the situation. Otherwise, learn to love those noise cancelling headphones. If you really can’t stand it, see if there’s an opportunity to swap desks in a different part of the office.
Level 2: Why Are You Like This?
The co-workers in this category may have some, uh, unique character traits, but the bottom line is, if they’re not negatively impacting you directly, you may just have to take up meditation, and find a trusted friend to vent to occasionally at happy hour.
When it comes to people who know it all and have been everywhere, met everyone and seen everything, channel Shania Twain, and remember: “That don’t impress me much.” According to Psychology Today, one strategy for disarming a braggart is letting them know the type of person you are: one who is not easily impressed. If the braggart is not getting the reaction their after, they’ll hopefully learn to tone it down after time.
Ahh, the office suck-up. This one has personally bothered me ever since my fashion intern days in college. There was one girl that always, somehow, ended up with an extra latte for the fashion assistants. “They accidentally made me an extra one!” she would exclaim, three times a week. And, conveniently, that same girl got preferential treatment. But, at the end of the day, if the brownnoser is not negatively impacting you, take a few deep breaths and chalk it up to insecurity. And if it is affecting you, check out this detailed article on How to Handle a Brownnoser.
Negative people are parasites. They have the ability to latch on to your energy and bring you down. This effect is magnified in the workplace, if you’re stuck with a co-worker with a negative attitude day in and day out. The two most important things to remember when dealing with a negative co-worker are: 1) set boundaries and 2) don’t engage and reinforce negative behavior. Check out this great piece from The Balance Careers for tips on dealing with genuinely negative people.
Note: Don’t confuse the occasional, frustrated vent session with perpetual negativity. We’ve all needed to take a moment and complain to a trusted work friend.
3: Affecting Your Personal Life and Well-Being
When you’re new to the workplace, it may be hard to navigate what’s normal and what’s not. The examples listed above—yeah, you’re probably going to encounter one or more at every job you take. And it will be annoying, but you can use the opportunity to grow. (I’m personally still waiting on gathering enough courage to silent a noisy chewer.)
What’s more than annoying, and downright wrong, is harassment, abuse or bullying of any kind. When you’re being singled out unfairly or inappropriately, that’s when you should get your manager or HR involved. And if they’re no help, it may be time to move on.
If this article helped you as a recent college grad, or if it reminds you of how you felt when you first began navigating corporate life, please consider sharing!