How to Deal with People You Don't Like at Work
How to Deal With Annoying Colleagues
At some point in your career, you're likely to find a coworker's habits annoying because, well, you're human. First, you need to figure out how to live with the problem if you can. If you can't, try confronting the person. If that still doesn't work, you can approach your boss with the issue.
Dealing With Colleagues Day-to-Day
Take the high road.Be extremely polite to the person no matter what they say. If you engage, you're only making the problem worse. Plus, you could get into an argument with the person that gets you in trouble with your boss.
Ignore the problem.One way to deal with any annoying thing in your life is to just ignore it if you can. Of course, sometimes that's not possible, as the problem impacts your life too much. However, everyone has little annoyances in your day, so try to come up with a way to ignore problems if you don't want to make waves with coworkers.
- For instance, if your coworker talks too loudly on the phone, maybe you can try putting in noise-cancelling headphones with some soft, instrumental music to drown him out.
Avoid the problem through work.That is, if you need to stop talking to a colleague, blame it on the fact that you have a deadline. Similarly, if you need to ask a co-worker to turn down a song (or conversation!), you could blame it on the fact that you need to make a phone call.
- However, try to make the suggestion politely. For instance, you could say, "I hate to run, but I've got a deadline coming up at 5. Can I catch you later?" or "I enjoy having music on, but would you mind turning it down a little? I really need to make a phone call."
Find common ground.If your main problem with a coworker is conflicting personalities, work on finding things you agree on or things you have in common. One way you can work on this step is to ask the person about her hobbies or what pets she has at home. Finding common ground can help alleviate some friction.
Make sure you're not the problem.You have pet peeves just like everyone else. However, sometimes you may take it a little far. Look at the situation, and see if what the other person is doing really justifies your anger. You may realize that it's really not that big of a deal, and you should find a way to work around it.
Confronting Colleagues about the Problem
Wait until you're calm.If you find yourself irrationally angry at something a coworker is doing, that is not the time to confront her. Wait until you've calmed down and have a clear head. You may decide that you don't even want to confront the person.
Don't approach the person publicly.You don't want to bring up a problem in the presence of twenty coworkers in the break room.However, if you think the confrontation could go badly, you might want to bring someone else along to help mediate or to at least witness the confrontation.
Approach your coworker with the problem.You need to be polite but assertive. That is, you don't want to downplay the problem, but you don't want your coworker to feel like you are attacking him.
- For instance, if the problem is a coworker is playing music too loud, try approaching it this way: "Can I speak to you for a minute? I'm sorry to bother you about this problem, but your music being so loud really distracts me from my work. Is it possible we can find a solution to this problem?"
Keep it professional.Don't drag in everything you think is wrong with the person. Stick to the facts. Also, don't name call or degrade the other person, as those actions are not professional and reflect badly on you.
Try a little humor.You can also lower the tension of the situation by cracking a joke. Usually, it's best to make the joke at your own expense, sort of putting you and the other person on the same playing field. That is, when you're bring up something negative about another person, you are creating a negative tension between you two. By cracking a joke, you can help erase some of that tension.
- For instance, if you've noticed they left a mess again in the kitchen, you could say something such as "I noticed you left a mess in the kitchen. Would you mind cleaning it up? Don't worry, I'm just as bad. I'm such a slob sometimes; they may need to send in an excavation team for my dirty dishes at home, haha."
Bookend the conversation with positive notes.When you need to bring up something negative, try starting and ending positive. That way, your coworker doesn't go on the defensive when you first start talking to him, and he won't leave the conversation with a sour taste in his mouth.
Don't just demand.In every relationship, you have to give as much as you take. Therefore, if you're demanding that your coworker give up something, try to offer something in return. For instance, if you ask your coworker to turn her music down, try saying you'll also wear headphones to help the problem.
Don't retaliate.Trying to out-annoy the other person is likely to end badly. For instance, if you don't like that someone is playing her music too loudly, increasing the volume on your music isn't going to solve the problem. Plus, it will get other coworkers annoyed at you.
Take a sideways approach.If direct confrontation isn't your thing, you can still find away to approach the problem. One good way to do that is to bring it up in a work meeting as a general office problem.
- For instance, you could say, "I've noticed the noise level in the office has gone up dramatically lately. Could everyone please pay attention to the amount of noise you're creating?"
Discussing the Problem With Your Manager
Know whether to involve your boss.Ask yourself one question first: "Is what the person is doing negatively affecting my work?" If it isn't, don't get your boss involved. If it is, figure out how it is in a specific way, such as "The noise level is affecting my ability to meet deadlines because I find it distracting."
Pick the best time.Try to pick a time when your boss doesn't have a huge deadline or is dashing between meetings. Sometimes, that's impossible because your boss is always busy. If that's the case, try shooting her an email to ask when a good time to chat would be. That way, she can set up a good time.
Focus on finding a solution.Managers here complaints all day long. If you come in with a complaint, it may go in one ear and out the other. Instead, try to focus on finding a solution rather than making a complaint. That is, frame it in a positive way.
- For instance, say you are complaining that your coworker tends to talk very loudly outside your office, making it difficult to concentrate. You could say, "I hate to bring it up with you because I know you are busy. I'm involved with a conflict with another coworker. I don't want to complain; rather, I'm want to help find a solution. Basically, we're having a conflict over how much noise should be allowed in the main parts of the office. I was hoping maybe you could help us find a solution or maybe mediate between the two of us. We have tried to resolve it, but we haven't found the right solution yet. Thank you for hearing me out."
Ask about creating quiet areas.If your company has created a boisterous, noisy environment, your boss might not feel the need to tell someone to quiet down. However, try asking if you can set up quiet areas for people who feel like you do. That way, you can have a quiet place to go collect your thoughts.
Video: Dealing With Difficult & Annoying People
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