Wouldn’t it be great if you got along swimmingly with every person you worked with? I’ll assume you’re nodding your head right now.
But sadly, that’s never the case. Because unlike your friends, you don’t get to choose your co-workers. And while some will be awesome human beings who turn into lifelong friends, others will drive you crazy because they’re just so very horrible.
Trust me, I know you’ve got at least one or two in your office—so I’ve come up with the perfect techniques for dealing with the five most common kinds of annoying co-workers.
1. The Interruptor
Sure, every once in a while it’s OK to get excited and interrupt what someone else is saying, but this person is constantly talking over everyone else: during meetings, in casual conversation, and on the phone. Not only is it driving you nuts, but it’s harming your ability to work with this colleague.
Next time you’re together (either in a group setting or one-on-one), let the first interruption pass without saying anything.
When he or she does it again, politely but firmly say, “Please let me finish my comment—then I’ll be happy to get your thoughts. As I was saying…”
It can also be helpful to shift your body to face the group after saying this. Then, when you’re done, turn to the interruptor to indicate he or she now has the floor.
2. The Nosy Person
Even though you spend 40-plus hours a week with or near your co-workers—which yes, can create a sense of intimacy—you’ve got a right to keep the private details of your life, well, private.
Unfortunately, this person can’t respect this boundary—and will ask you inappropriate questions about your romantic choices, your health and weight, your salary, your decision to have a family (or not), and other topics that you’d really rather not discuss.
If you’re worried about hurting this person’s feelings, respond to prying questions by laughing and saying, “If I told you, I’d have to kill you,” or “That’s for me to know… and my therapist to find out.”
Other times you might need to go with a more direct approach. Try, “Honestly, I’d rather not say,” or “That’s pretty personal. I’d rather talk about something else…” then change the subject.
3. The Class Clown
Humor in the office is great—except for when it’s interfering with your productivity. And this person’s constantly cracking (bad) jokes and can’t seem to take anything seriously, no matter how urgent or intense the situation. While you found it entertaining at first, now it’s anything but.
To discourage this person, simply stop responding. When he or she cracks a joke, smile briefly, then steer the conversation in a more productive direction.
Or, when you’re communicating via email or chat and this person tries to be funny, simply ignore everything but the relevant parts of his or her message.
4. The Micromanager
This person is your peer, but he or she acts like your superior. You’re always getting update requests, unwanted input, and “constructive” criticism. Not only is this frustrating on a personal level, but it also weakens your authority on your own team and in front of anyone who reports to you.
Since this is a fairly delicate conversation, I suggest having it away from your other co-workers. A nearby coffee shop, as it’s neutral territory.
Once you’re alone, say, “It’s really clear that you’re dedicated to (company) and are willing to work extraordinarily hard to make it successful. That’s something I really admire.” By starting with a compliment, you’ll make this person more receptive to the conversation. Then, add “However, I feel that your constructive criticism is starting to get in the way of my productivity as well as interfere with the goals my boss set out for me,” citing a specific and recent example of the behavior. Finish off with, “While I value your opinion, I’d appreciate if you could limit your comments unless they directly impact your role.”
5. The Bully
You thought you left this type behind in high school. But unfortunately, bullies can be found in almost every workplace: They’re the ones who say snide comments, constantly critique your work, question your judgment, and so forth.
Your response depends on how severe the bullying behavior is. If it’s limited to mean remarks and passive-aggressive emails, then either ignore it or reply calmly, “I don’t appreciate that comment,” or “I’d prefer to set up time to discuss feedback in person since it seems like we have conflicting ideas.”
However, you should escalate the situation and speak with your manager (or, if necessary, HR), if you’re being verbally abused, threatened, humiliated, or intimidated. (And if the bully is your manager? Hop right over here.)
No matter where you work, there’s guaranteed to be at least one person who drives you bananas. So take a deep breath, and try these tips before you lose it in the office.