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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

The Answer to “Should I Tell My Co-Worker They’re Annoying Me?”

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Co-workers can be your closest confidantes, or they can be the people you dread seeing in the morning. We all know a few of both.

Other people’s annoying habits, from taking personal calls all day long to consistently forgetting to copy you on important emails, can ruin a workday or—worst case scenario—your success within the company.

So, if you’ve got a co-worker that’s driving you crazy, should you tell them?

Here’s your guide to deciding if the issue is worth bringing up (and who you should be bringing it up to):

Yes if: It’s Interfering With Your Ability to Do Your Job

A co-worker showing you endless pictures of their labradoodle isn’t worth a tough conversation, but slacking off on projects and taking credit for your work definitely is.

Read More: 3 Ways to Get Your Slacker Co-worker to Meet a Deadline Without Nagging Them to Death

No if: It’s a Minor Annoyance to You, But a Major Thing for Them

But sometimes, it’s best just to follow the dog on Instagram rather than hurt a co-worker’s feelings (and your long-term relationship—you have to work together, after all).

Read More: Sneaky Ways to Work Better With a Difficult Co-worker

Yes if: It’s Something They Can Definitely Fix

Maybe your co-worker has not-so-great body odor, or they blast their music at an insane volume.

If it’s something you know they could solve with something as simple as deodorant or the volume button on their phone, it’s OK to ask (but, in the case of body odor, speak to HR and see if they’ll handle it).

Read More: How to Tell Your Co-workers to Turn Down Their Music (Without Being Rude)

No if: It’s Something They Can’t Help

It’s possible their annoying habit is linked to a health problem they can’t do anything about or already feel embarrassed about (for example, allergies). Use good judgment and make sure you’re not complaining about something that’ll only unnecessarily shame them. When in doubt, talk to your boss—they may know the bigger story.

Read More: 4 Telltale Signs the Question You’re About to Ask Is Rude

Yes if: You’ve Got the Backing of Your Manager

While it’s better to resolve co-worker issues on your own if you can, knowing your manager will be on your side if it escalates is a plus. Make sure what you’re bringing up to your co-worker is something your manager can stand behind. The more you emphasize it’s not just affecting you, but your work or other team members, the more likely this will be the case.

Read More: How to Tattle at Work (Without Being a Tattletale)

No if: It’s Such a Small Issue Your Manager Will Think You’re Wasting Their Time

Constantly bringing little annoyances to your manager is a sign you can’t handle problems on your own (and you’ll come to suffer from “boy who cried wolf” syndrome). Pick your battles wisely.

Read More: 3 Times You’ll Have to Stand Up for Yourself at Work (Because No One Else Will)

Yes if: There’s No Way to Avoid the Annoying Habit

If you’re trapped in a cubicle together and there’s nowhere else you can work, you can definitely bring it up. Whether it’s their messy desk or their unnecessary PDA with their significant other that’s taking over, remember: It’s your workspace, too.

Read More: How to Tell Your Co-worker to Clean Up Their Gross, Messy Desk

No if: There’s an Easy Way to Avoid the Person

If you’re not chained to your desk, it’s sometimes better to avoid the awkward confrontation by (theoretically or literally) walking away. Wearing headphones can eliminate the noise of working in proximity with a whistler or chatterbox, or working a few hours a day in an empty conference room can grant you some much-needed distance.

Read More: How to Avoid Distractions in an Open Office (Without Yelling “Leave Me Alone!”)

Yes if: You Can Find the Right Approach

To get the best possible outcome—the person quits their annoying habit—you should be polite, direct, and respectful. Don’t let things get to the point where you’re so irritated you blow up at them or get personal. That won’t solve anything.

Read More: 7 Perfect Replies to (Politely) Shut Down Negative People

No if: You Know You Won’t Be Able to Keep the Dislike Out of Your Voice

In this case, you’re better off talking to your manager and asking her to mediate.

Read More: How to Talk to Your Boss About a Co-worker You Hate

Yes if: You’re Sure You’ve Identified the Problem

If the co-worker’s always talking over you in meetings, that’s a clear problem—go ahead and address it with them.

Read More: 3 Phrases That’ll Stop a Conversation Hog From Talking (and Talking and Talking)

No if: This Issue Is Just a Focal Point for Other Dissatisfactions

This can be with your assignments, your job in general, your work relationships, or even outside work issues. Examine your life and make sure that hating on your co-worker’s overly chipper moods or habit of talking about her wedding planning is just a convenient scapegoat to avoid addressing your frustration with something bigger.

Read More: How to Make Sure Your Bad Day Doesn’t Turn You Into the Office Buzzkill

Yes if: You Know Your Co-worker’s a Reasonable Person

Sensible co-workers will make an effort to fix the problem if it’s not a big deal to them. In many cases—maybe they have a tendency to hum when they’re focused—they might not realize they were doing it and are happy to try to stop.

Read More: 3 Things Your Chatterbox Co-worker Wants to Say to You, But Won’t

No if: Your Co-worker Has a History of Creating Drama

It might be worth a few days of the silent treatment to get rid of an annoying habit, but if they’re likely to make a huge deal out of it and draw other people in, learning to live with it (or, if it’s a major issue, having your manager step in) is probably the better option.

Read More: 4 Realistic Ways to Steer Clear of Office Drama (Without Being a Goody Two-Shoes)

It can be difficult to confront a co-worker, even if you know that you’re in the right. If you decide to say something, it’s smart to keep things civil: frame your request as a request, rather than a criticism. If you behave like a professional, they’re more likely to do the same—and everyone will be able to get on with their day in peace.