Ah, the annoying co-worker—the scourge of every office. They’re the person who talks too much or clicks their pens whenever they’re reading or conveniently calls in sick whenever a big project is assigned. Whatever the bothersome habit is, we can only tolerate it for so long before we reach our breaking point. How we react in that moment, though, not only affects our relationship with that person going forward, it can also affect your career. Let’s take a look at what you can do to address the annoying situation so you AND the co-worker can walk away happy and productive.

  • Figure out if it’s just a difference in personalities. Maybe you’re introverted and can’t stomach idle chit chat, while your co-worker is an extrovert and thrives on conversing with anyone about anything. Perhaps you find solutions by sketching something out on paper while your co-worker has to talk everything through. Try seeing the situation from another point of view by asking a trusted friend their opinion in the matter.
  • If it’s not just a difference in personalities, address it with the person directly. Don’t embarrass the person by mocking them in public; instead, ask if you can have a moment of their time and go to a private area. Practice what you will say ahead of time so you’re not flustered in the moment and say something you might later regret.
  • Be nice. Have you ever heard the saying, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar”? When you approach a situation rationally and in a positive manner, your message will more easily be heard than if you are hostile and accusatory.
  • Be direct. If a person is overindulging in perfume, let them know exactly what is bothering you about it and how it is affecting you. Maybe the smell gives you headaches or it’s causing your eyes to burn. Abruptly telling them that they stink might make them think they need to put on even more perfume to cover up whatever odor they think you’re smelling, so be direct and don’t leave anything up for interpretation.
  • Lighten up. Have you ever been approached about something you do on a regular basis that annoys someone else and you had no idea you were even doing it? Well, maybe your annoying co-worker is in the same boat and was unaware they chewed their gum like a cow or sighed 100 times a day. Cut them some slack and don’t make it seem like this is a life-or-death situation.
  • Inflect humor into the situation. Give the person a coupon worth a free cup of coffee if he or she goes a week without doing whatever it was he or she was doing. Say, “Okay, now it’s your turn!” and give the person the opportunity to let you know what you do to drive them Leave the conversation on a positive note so you can move forward from the situation without any hard feelings.
  • Be prepared that it may not go well. Even if you put on your best face, speak with compassion and honesty, and thank the person for listening, they may never stop doing whatever it is they’re doing. Some people cannot take criticism, while others refuse to recognize how their actions impact others. In that case, you may need to enlist the help of your supervisor or HR to manage the situation if it continues.
  • Request a move. In situations when the problem persists or when you know your request will fall upon deaf ears, see if you can move to a different area where you’ll have less interaction with this person or, even better, no interaction at all.

While you can only tolerate so much, a certain level of restraint is needed to properly handle an annoying co-worker. Blowing up at the person or refusing to work with them will only make you look bad. If you’ve tried everything, including talking to HR and your supervisor, and the situation has gotten so bad that you’re considering leaving your job, give us a call. We might not be able to stop your co-worker from doing whatever it is they’re doing to annoy you, but we can help you find opportunities elsewhere.