Annoying Coworkers? Here’s How to Make Work Bearable.
Whether it be an overly chatty coworker’s failure to pick up on social cues and stop talking, an inconsiderate peer playing music with the volume way too loud for a professional setting, or an obnoxious business associate pushing the limits of your patience with their bad behavior—the fact remains, annoying coworkers can effortlessly turn an otherwise wonderful day at work into a wreck.
Unfortunately, every office has, or will have, at least one. It’s inevitable. Tiny quirks and agitating actions that would typically go unnoticed are amplified simply by virtue of spending day after day in close proximity to the same people. Think about it—Carl stopping you at the watercooler to tell you all about his cats on your first day might have felt like a comforting welcome—now, you’d gladly dehydrate at your desk rather than risk getting caught up in another seemingly endless conversation you can’t escape. It’s enough to make you want to scream. But, before you blow up on the person clipping their nails next to you, try to make work a little more bearable with some of these suggestions for dealing with annoying coworkers.
Don’t be afraid to be assertive
The next time you’re feeling trapped by a talkative coworker, try politely shutting down the conversation by telling them, “I’m sorry, but I have a very busy day and need to get back to work,” “I really don’t have time to talk right now, but maybe we can catch up later,” or “Not to be rude, but my mind is in a million other places, and I’m just not a great listener today.”
It’s natural to want to avoid confrontation in these instances, especially when the annoying behavior is clearly meant to be friendly rather than offensive—but, you shouldn’t have to suffer through someone’s life story simply because they might feel slighted when you step away.
Pick your battles
Being assertive is effective, but certain situations require a little more consideration. For example, requesting a coworker lower the volume on their radio just a notch shouldn’t be a problem, but asking a loud breather or open-mouth chewer to tone it down isn’t going to go over very well. Aside from feeling personally attacked, they’ll most likely be embarrassed.
Instead of addressing the source of your annoyance directly, making your own minor adjustments might be the smarter solution. If you’re especially sensitive to sounds, try keeping a pair of ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones on hand—or, see about the possibility of relocating to a quieter space in the office.
When just the sight of a particular coworker is enough to annoy you, try obstructing your view. Plants, stacking file folders, and/or computer monitors are a great way to keep conspicuous coworkers out of sight without calling attention to your motives.
Learn to laugh
You might be surprised at how easily annoying behavior can go from infuriating to funny with only a subtle change to the way you choose to see a situation. Learning to laugh at the sheer audacity of other’s actions is often the best way to make your time in the office bearable.
Admit it, there’s something hilarious about the fact that out of all the empty spaces in the office, you were assigned a desk where you are surrounded by people who apparently exclusively eat foods that can only be foraged from a hot dumpster. Plus, your friends will probably get a kick out of hearing all about Heather’s hard-boiled egg obsession, Ted’s tuna fish fixation, and Eric’s… well, everything Eric eats. Seeing things with a sense of humor can save your life.
Annoying coworkers are unavoidable, but you shouldn’t let them ruin your time in the office. Honestly, you might be annoying the person next to you and not even know it. At the end of the day, all you really need to remember is there is an end to this day, and the next, and the next, and so on… Armed with that and the suggestions above, you can make your time at work a whole lot better than just bearable.