If you have colleagues at work, there’s a very small chance you all get along swimmingly 100% of the time.
You’ll probably get annoyed with each and every one of them at some point — and there may even be a few who you absolutely can’t stand.
Here are 23 simple steps you can take:
1. Relate the problem to business.
If and when you approach your annoying coworker, it’s fine to blame that “deadline” you have or that “project” you’re working on.
Try something like: “Hey, I normally love that song too, but I actually need to finish something by the end of the day and it’s a little distracting. Do you mind turning it down?”
Just be sure not to make it personal, says Taylor.
2. Use “positive bookends.”
Start the conversation on a friendly and kind note, and end it that way, too. “Any issues you have should be in the middle,” she explains.
3. Be diplomatic.
“Be patient and gentle with your words; rehearse them if necessary.”
4. Remain calm.
Be a role model of professionalism. “You want your approach to work, and you can’t keep badgering your office mate, so be strategic the first time,” Taylor says.
5. Have a cool-down period.
Give yourself time to objectively assess the situation. Don’t react in the moment, i.e., “Hey, can you turn that down!” or “Wow … what the heck are you eating?!”
6. Don’t fight fire with fire.
“Avoid a battle of the wits,” she says. “Don’t play your music louder or pound on your keyboard harder.” If you try and one up your office mates, you’ll both dread coming to work.
7. Be direct and discreet.
Talk to your coworker privately and allow them dignity. Avoid spreading ill will. “Kindness goes a long way, and you’ll be working around this person for weeks, months or years,” Taylor says.
“Know when the annoyances are most likely to happen and try work-arounds where possible,” she suggests.
9. Set boundaries early.
Don’t be a martyr; speak up or things will worsen for you. Take action in some form or the issue will magnify, she says.
10. Don’t feel guilty.
You have the right to speak up without feeling remorseful later. If you’ve done your best to be polite and compassionate, you’re doing the right thing, Taylor says.
11. Address better work habits in a meeting.
“Try to solicit the help of Human Resources in getting input from the team on making the office more comfortable and productive,” Taylor suggests. “You want an ally. Take the broader issue into a group meeting. Bring up the need to be respectful to other workers and share the specific requests and input received. This way no one is pointing fingers.”
12. Try to be understanding.
Be sensitive to the fact that people aren’t perfect. No one is immune to habits that can be annoying to others, she says.
13. Use humour.
This is a good opportunity to use humour to lessen the tension. “Some self-effacing humour can help you avoid appearing haughty,” she explains.
14. Stay positive.
“Try to stay upbeat, despite the insanity,” says Taylor. “You’re more likely to get cooperation.”
Figure out ways to meet your neighbour halfway, recommends Taylor. Offer to do your part to make the office experience more pleasant for them.
16. Let them save face.
She says you should ty starting the conversation in a way that gives them an out, versus going on the defensive: “I’m sure this is really hard to notice, as I realise we’re all dealing with X right now, but I was wondering if we could work something out with [the problem].”
17. Use little reminders to stay cool.
“Consider using a desktop reminder, like a personal code word, that reminds you to take it less seriously,” Taylor says. “Try to look at the circumstances with some levity.”
18. Don’t empower them.
Don’t allow anyone to steal your joy at work or take up valuable space in your day, she warns. Stay focused on your work, and once you’ve taken action, remember that you can take steps to make the environment more tolerable: use headsets, ask to be moved elsewhere in the office, etc.
19. Use refuge or quiet areas.
Approach your boss to establish quiet spaces and take advantage of refuge areas.
20. Talk to someone outside of work.
It’s ok to vent with a friend or family, just make sure you’re away from the office. “Avoid the temptation to lament over the chaos with your colleagues, as word could spread, ruining your chances to resolve the issue properly,” Taylor says.
21. Take a walk.
Getting your circulation going will help your spirits and remove you from the sense of being in a virtual fishbowl of frustration.
22. Take a break.
Consider going to the break room or a public area for a few minutes, for a change of environment. “You’ll likely return with a fresher outlook and more relaxed,” she says.
23. Set the example.
No one is the perfect office mate. Examine your own habits and solicit input on how you can be a better coworker when approaching others.
“Remember, it’s how you react to a challenge that really impacts your job, and maybe your career,” says Taylor. “Try your best to limit confrontation, maximise professionalism, and deploy defensive moves — what you do have control over. With a little humility, you’re likely to create a more acceptable and even pleasant work environment for everyone.”
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