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How to Deal with Annoying Coworkers

We’ve all had coworkers who just rub us the wrong way. Maybe they have some annoying habit that gets under your skin. Maybe they don’t follow the same social “rules” you follow. Maybe they’re just different.

Annoying or not, you still have to work with these people. Here are some simple tips to help you deal.

Look Inward

Did you know the things that irritate you the most in the others are usually the same qualities you don’t like in yourself? Scary, I know. Turn that critical eye inward and you may not like what you see.

Even if that’s not exactly true in this circumstance, it’s still more about you than it is about the other person. As Carl Jung said:

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

Ask yourself why this person gets to you. Does she remind you of someone? Is she stepping on some personal value you hold sacred? Is she making you feel something you’d rather not feel? Stop looking at the other person and start looking inside. What’s really going on?

Appreciate Diversity

Life would be so boring if we were all the same. Think of it this way: Annoying people make the workplace a little more interesting! Hey, there’s a reason people watch the Real Housewives, even though they find each and every one of them as irritating as corduroy pants on a hot summer day. It’s entertaining! So sit back and try to enjoy the show. The differences you find annoying might actually be a good thing for the workplace.

Look for the Positive

If you look hard enough, you’ll find something wonderful about each and every person you work with—a kind heart, a knack for baking cookies, an uncanny ability to find obscure information on the Internet…No matter how small, everyone has something that makes them special and indeed, useful in the workplace. When you feel yourself getting overcome by irritation, focus on the positive. It’s much easier to overlook annoyances when you can see the value the person offers.

Separate Yourself

If you just can’t handle it, remove yourself from this person’s presence as much as possible. If they eat lunch in the break room, take yours outside. If you share a cubicle wall, inquire about switching desk locations. The more time you spend together, the more the irritation will build. It’s perfectly fine to put a little distance between you. It’s not always feasible, but do what you can when you can.

Give Some Slack

Ease up, man. Remember that this person has a whole history that you know nothing about. That little annoyance may be a part of something much bigger.

That person who always tells the same stupid jokes? Maybe she’s trying to keep her own spirits up because life isn’t treating her kind.

That coworker who’s always late? Maybe she’s going through a tough divorce and trying to work out her new schedule.

That guy who acts so arrogant? Maybe he was made fun of as a kid and now tries to overcompensate.

There could be a million reasons why someone acts the way they do. Don’t presume you know everything about your co-workers. I’m not saying you have to make excuses for them, but give them the benefit of the doubt. Underneath it, they’re probably good people. In fact, you probably have a lot in common.

And let’s be clear here: Chances are pretty good that you have some annoying behaviors too. Give others a little leeway to be themselves and they’ll do the same for you. Don’t expect everyone to be your best friend. If someone irritates you, deal with it. You don’t have to invite them to your house for the holidays. You just have to work with them.

Of course, if you find yourself surrounded by annoying people, take a moment to reflect. Maybe it’s not them. Maybe…dare I say it…it’s you. Anxiety, depression and stress can all influence the way you feel about your environment and how you react to others. Or maybe this organization just isn’t a match for your personality. Look at the situation critically and stop blaming others. You are an equal player in this situation, and you might need to make some tough decisions to deal with it.

I know that’s tough to hear. Don’t worry, we still love you. Flaws and all.

Photo Credit: Chris Hagood Photography (Flickr)

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5 Responses to “How to Deal with Annoying Coworkers”

  1. ruth says:

    I think the main question is… am I the only one who is annoyed? Because if a) the answer is ‘no’ –and— b) work productivity is impaired, then management needs to pull the annoying co-irker aside and have a heart to heart.

    “Hey I know you don’t mean to but when you do [x] then it really annoys the people around you.” It’s really not that hard.

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