Dealing with annoying co-workers

Posted on: June 7th, 2011 by

Eric L. Bach CPA - Rockville, MDUnless you’re ridiculously lucky or have extreme tolerance, you’ve probably had your share of annoying co-workers over the years.  Here are the six most common types and how to deal with them:

1. The interrupter: Whenever you’re talking with a coworker, this is the person who always finds a way to interject themselves.  They answers your questions to other people, they turn the conversation around to focus on them, and you can’t have one private conversation without them ending up in it.

The solution: There’s only one way to make it stop.  Tell it like it is.  The next time this happens, say something like, “Actually, I really wanted to get Jane’s input on this. Would you give us a minute?”  If they don’t back off, say it again: “Thanks. Actually, I really want to talk to Jane about it.”  Say it nicely, but be firm.  Think about it as though you are talking to a 5-year old.

2. The know-it-all: This is the person that has an opinion about everything and loves to tell you how you can do YOUR job better.

The solution: Let it roll right off your back.  The more you ignore this person and don’t let them get to you, the better.  When they offer an unsolicited opinion, say, “Thanks, I’ll think about that.”  And if you find yourself getting frustrated, comfort yourself with the knowledge that this person is more than likely considered obnoxious by many; you’re definitely not the only one annoyed.

3. The slacker: You’re working away and she’s playing on Facebook or online shopping.  Every day.  It’s obvious to you and your other co-workers that she’s not pulling her weight, but for some reason your boss doesn’t do anything about it.

The solution: Try to ignore it.  Sure, it’s possible your boss is letting her get away with it, but it’s also possible your boss is addressing it behind the scenes; you probably wouldn’t know about it if that was the case.  Either way, the answer for you is the same: If it’s not affecting your work, it’s really not your business.  If it does affect your ability to do your job (because you have to take on her work, or you’re dependent on her work in order to do your own job), then raise it with your boss from that perspective, keeping the focus on how it affects your productivity.

4. The grumpy guy: The grump exudes negativity.  Suggestions, new practices, the new guy down the hall – he hates them all and he makes sure people know it.

The solution: Have a sense of humor.  Try to see this person as your own office Eeyore.  If that doesn’t help, remember that this person is miserable.  Happy people don’t behave that way, and remembering that might make dealing with him somewhat easier.  He may actually be dealing with other things at home contributing to his mood.

5. The speakerphone lover: For some reason, this co-worker always plays back her voicemail messages on speakerphone … or worse, has whole conversations on speakerphone, with an utter disregard for how annoying it is to those around her.

The solution: Be straightforward.  Say something like, “Hey Meredith, would you mind taking your phone off speaker? It makes it hard to concentrate.”

6. The blabbermouth: The blabbermouth goes on and on and on.  They’re especially talented at roping you into long conversations that never end when you’re on deadline or trying to make a phone call.

The solution: Be assertive, and don’t let the blabbermouth have so much power over how you spend your time.  Speak up! Say, “Sorry, but I’m on deadline and I’ve got to finish something up.”  If they continue talking, be even more direct: “I need to stop talking and get back to work.”

In fact, with most types of annoying co-workers, the solution is simply to be straightforward and assertive.  Not angry, not hostile, just direct – but that’s something that can make people anxious, so it’s important to know that it’s really okay to speak up for yourself in a matter-of-fact, professional way.  And if that fails, just be glad you don’t live with these people.



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