Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

Co-workers Killing You? How to Stop Being Annoyed—and Start Taking Action

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When you spend 40 hours a week with the same group of people, fulfilling the same set of duties, something's bound to start getting on your nerves. Whether it's a co-worker's bad habit, your boss' communication style, or just that one menial task that you have to spend an hour on each day, it's going to drive you crazy.

If you’re like me, you may silently endure it for a while, allowing that one pesky thing to bother you a little more each day. But if you’ve been there, you know that bubbling over with annoyance doesn’t do anything to actually solve the problem—little by little, it just makes you more unhappy and less satisfied with your job, manager, and co-workers.

So instead of silently fuming (and risking your happiness and career satisfaction), it’s time to stop being annoyed and start taking action. Whatever it is that’s driving you crazy, there’s something you can do about it. In fact, I’ve done it several times. Read on for a couple common annoying situations and how I learned to take action to overcome them.

Situation #1: Your Co-workers are Annoying

When it comes to co-workers, everyone has a pet peeve or two. Maybe it drives you crazy when your cube-mate takes personal phone calls or that your colleague lingers a little too long at your desk when he asks about your weekend when you really need to get started on your day’s work.

In my case, my teammates got into the habit of emailing me something, then immediately walking over to my desk to ask, “Hey did you get that email I just sent? Can we talk about it?” It got to the point that anytime I saw an email pop up in my inbox, I’d roll my eyes, sigh with frustration, and glare down the hallway for the colleague who was inevitably approaching.

Eventually, I realized that if it was driving me that crazy, I had to do something about it. My co-workers weren’t going to read my mind and stop on their own—so I had to figure out how to manage their behaviors. So, whenever a colleague would email and approach my desk, I started letting him or her know point-blank, “Hey, I’m in the middle of wrapping something up right now. I’ll instant message you when I’m free,” or “I haven’t gotten to your email yet—if it’s not urgent, can we meet a little later?” It was a simple shift, but my teammates eventually stopped their annoying habit.

No matter what behavior you’re trying to curb, consider how you might be able to address it proactively. Your response might sound harsh at first (I sure thought mine did). But in the end, if it helps you accomplish more work with less resentment toward your co-workers, everyone’s much better off.

Situation #2: Your Boss is Annoying

Just like your co-workers tend to have some annoying habits, your boss probably does a thing or two that gets on your nerves, as well. Unfortunately, when your manager is your source of annoyance, there may not seem like any viable way around it.

For example, my former boss had a terribly annoying habit of yelling requests at me from her office across the hall. She’d yell, “Hey, did you get a contract back from Jane Robertson?” and I’d have to stop what I was doing, check through my emails and records, and eventually shout a response back. I’d get back on track with my original task, when, five minutes later, she’d yell again.

When that annoyance started seriously impacting my happiness at work, I knew I had to do something. So, the next time she yelled a question, I walked to her office door to (quietly) deliver the answer—throwing in, “The rest of the team is working toward a big deadline and I didn’t want to disrupt them—I figured I’d just come to you. Is there anything else you need from me?”

Sometimes, that kind of subtlety will work. If it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to lay it out a little more firmly—in private—at a one-on-one meeting or annual review (when your boss hopefully asks for feedback). Saying, “it would really help me work better if you…” positions your request as something that’ll benefit your work—not as a personal jab.

Situation #3: Your Job Duties are Annoying

You probably can’t avoid doing at least something that you don’t particularly love as part of your job. (When I managed a bakery, I hated shopping for supplies at a bulk foods store—50-pound bags of flour, anyone?)

And for the most part, that’s fine. As an adaptable professional, it’s part of your job to be a flexible team player who will help out wherever needed.

But then, there are those duties that you absolutely despise; that drive you so crazy that you consider looking for a new job. For me, when I managed a cleaning and concierge service startup, it was inspecting several houses per week after my employees had finished cleaning them. It wasn’t part of my original job description, and having to drive across town several times a day seriously interrupted my workflow. Each time my boss asked me to do it, my annoyance grew—until finally, I decided to do something about it.

In this kind of situation, it’s all about your approach. If you whine to your boss that you simply don’t like doing something, the response you’ll get will probably be along the lines of “too bad, so sad.” On the other hand, if you make a smart argument and make a valid suggestion of how you can get that responsibility off your plate (think: “I haven’t been able to devote enough time to my bigger projects lately, so I was thinking we could train a few of our best employees to be team leads and take on the responsibility of checking houses”), you’ll be much better received.


No job will ever be 100% annoyance-free—but by addressing these everyday issues instead of silently fuming about them, you’ll help boost your happiness at work big time.

Photo of annoyed woman courtesy of Shutterstock.