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5 Empowering Ways for Dealing with Annoying Coworkers

Annoying coworkers can suck the joy out of work. Here's how to not fall into distress and negativity.

By Phyllis Reagin, Founder of At The Coach's Table, coaching professionals out of conflict

As I leaned in to hear her answer, she looked directly at me and called me a Bozo!

I huddled one late winter morning in a conference room with my coworkers. It was going to be another boring meeting of readouts. A new coworker was amongst us, quiet and brooding in the left corner of the table. We did our rounds of project updates, hers being the last. As was our ritual, questions from others was entertained at the end. I asked her, “Do you need any help? I know what it’s like to be new and am more than happy to walk through it with you.” And then she said it, voluminous and snidely, “What a dumb thing to say Bozo.” Bozo? I didn’t say anything, feeling humiliated and extremely angry.

Is one of your coworker’s behavior annoying you and making work uncomfortable and uneasy? Such annoying behaviors can include someone who talks too loudly, interrupts conversations, is persistently late, speaks negatively to you, or complains all the time. These types of annoying habits can drain your energy and morale.

You may ignore the behaviors, hoping they will be addressed by someone else or that somehow, they will improve. Why is important for you to stop ignoring these annoying behaviors? Failing to do so can leave you feeling helpless, deflated and miserable. Eventually, minor annoyances turn into a major distraction, and it may cause resentment and anger to build up. This can threaten your ability to focus, engage in your work and negatively impact your productivity.

Here are 3 Empowering Tips to Deal with and Annoying Coworker:

  1. Avoid Gossip: It can be easy to vent your frustration about your irritating coworker by complaining about him to another coworker. Don't do it! Spreading rumors can be divisive and destructive. Not only that, but you might find that it backfires on you, and you could end up looking like the "bad guy." Discuss the situation with a mentor or someone outside of your organization that can listen and provide sound advice.
  2. Assess the Impact: At times, what you find irritating can be subjective. So, before you decide how to approach the problem, take a step back and look at it objectively. How much does your colleague's behavior really affect you? Do other people on your team seem bothered by it? Can you cope with it on your own? Or, do you need to refer it to your manager or Human Resources? The level of action that you take should correspond to the seriousness of the behavior.
  3. Keep Your Emotions Under Control: It can be hard to keep your emotions in check when you are faced with persistent and irritating behavior. Bottling up your feelings can often make things feel worse. Remember also that this about the other person and not some fault of yours. In other words, don’t take it on as a burden. This will untangle you from the conflict and lessen feeling personal about it.
  4. Don’t Rent Space in Their Heads: Don’t spend your precious energy trying to figure out why your coworker is behaving a certain way. You may never know what makes them tick or any stressors they are experiencing. Just focus on what is out of alignment with how they are behaving towards you.
  5. Directly and Tactfully Talk to Your Coworker: This is the hardest part but often yields the best results. Approach with grace and use a neutral tone when discussing the challenge with your coworker. The conversation should be direct, quick, and specific. For example, you could say: "Kimberli, I enjoy hearing your viewpoint in our staff meetings, but could you please let me finish talking before you speak? It would really help me with staying focused."

If I could go back in time to my younger self and hear my coworker call me Bozo, I would give myself a great, big hug and prop myself back up with the understanding that there were ways to address the situation that could have made me feel empowered and hopeful.

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