There’s one in every office: the loud talker, the cubicle invader or the perpetual procrastinator. Annoying coworkers can be a drag, particularly when they interfere with your productivity.
Data from the 2011 Work Stress Survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Everest College shows more than three quarters of Americans are stressing out about something related to their jobs—and annoying coworkers ranked in the middle (8%).
Before you erupt in rage over a co-worker’s annoying habits, consider these tips to improve the situation without getting written up by human resources or even worse, losing your job.
The Cubicle Invader
One of the most common complaints from workers that spend their days toiling away in cubicles or open areas is lingering co-workers that drop by without an invitation. They may be friendly enough, but not only do they invade your work space, they also tend to monopolize your time with endless banter.
“They know where to go to drape their arms over the side of the cube or stand in the middle of the doorway,” says Richie Frieman, an etiquette expert and the Modern Manners Guy blogger. “It’s almost the same as if someone came in your house without knocking.”
How to handle it: While the first instinct may be to scream, “leave me alone” Frieman suggests setting up proactive blocking. If you see the offender coming, jump on the phone or hover over your computer and look intently at the screen. Frieman says to never turn completely around to invite conversation, and put your coat or purse on the extra chair to make the space as inhospitable as possible. “The thing about office living is you have to be very politically correct,” said Frieman.
Everyone can benefit from a knowledgeable co-worker, but the one that seems to have done it all or knows everything about anything can be downright annoying. While it may be satisfying to tell that co-worker to shove it, that could land you in hot water with your employer.
How to handle it: Instead of getting angry, Alison Green, writer of the Ask A Manager Blog, advises to just ignore the know-it-all. “The more you can ignore this person and not let them get to you, the better,” says Green. When the co-worker offers unsolicited advice, Green said to thank the offender and say you’ll consider it. “If you find yourself getting frustrated, comfort yourself with the knowledge that this person is widely considered obnoxious; you're definitely not the only one annoyed.”
The Loud Talker
Despite sitting on the other side of the floor, you may know intimate details about a co-worker's life thanks to his or her lack of volume control.
Loud talkers are distracting, but in many cases they aren’t aware of how loud they are speaking.
How to handle it: Daniel Post Senning, a spokesman for the Emily Post Institute, suggests talking to the loud coworker first before complaining to the higher ups. When approaching the coworker, don’t take an accusatory tone, says Senning, instead say something like, “when you talk on the phone you are loud and it’s hard for me to stay focused.” Most of the time people don’t realize how loud they are talking on the phone. Senning says the same approach works for more personal issues like too strong perfume or cologne.
Talk Your Ear Off
Another variant on the loud talker is the coworker that simply talks too much; a simple question can lead to a 20-minute conversation about non-work issues, setting you back in your work.
How to handle it: “You have to be assertive in this situation and not let the person have so much power over how you spend your time,” says Green. Tell the coworker that you are on deadline, if that fails, Green says to be direct and simply say you need to stop talking and get back to work.
Lunch time often brings a crowd to the kitchen and a long line to use the microwave. Waiting in line while coworker’s meal heats up for 15 minutes can be a time waster, and if that’s not enough, some workers will insist on bringing in food that wafts through the entire office and can be considered unpleasant to some. So what to do?
How to handle it: If a coworker is taking up more than his fair share of the microwave, Frieman suggests leaving an anonymous note taped to the microwave or even a funny cartoon about microwave etiquette. Experts say you can’t tell a coworker what to eat, but if the smell is unbearable and the coworker brings it in every day, Frieman says that may be a situation where a boss needs to get involved. “Refer to your boss if 15 people in the office can’t stand the smell,” said Frieman.
At the end of the day, dealing with an annoying coworker is part of office life and something that needs to be handled tactfully so as not to hurt someone’s feelings. After all, you may be committing some of the above offenses and not even know it.