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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

This Is the Mature Way to Deal With the Office Goody-Two-Shoes

colleagues in conversation
Seb Oliver/Getty Images

Let’s assume you’re typically a pretty upbeat person. You recognize the importance of not bringing your problems to the office. Sure, you have a co-worker or two you feel comfortable confiding in when you’re having a bad day because your roommate left the kitchen a pigsty or you discovered that your ex is getting married. But, all things considered, you’re not one to come to the office full of doom and gloom.

On the other hand, you’re also not one to pretend that everything’s sunshine and roses all the time. When your boss delivers harsh team feedback, you don’t grin and bear it and act like everything’s OK (with the hopes of gaining points with your manager).

And when there’s devastating news in the outside world, you don’t just ignore it, paste a smile on your face and go about your job as though everything’s perfect. Oh, and when your colleague suddenly quits, leaving you with piles of her work, you don’t see the virtue in acting like everything’s cool.

It’s little wonder then that you find it increasingly difficult to deal with the office goody two-shoes.

Their permanent grin is grating and the frequent brown-nosing borderline obnoxious. But what can you do? It’s not as though you can call them out for it. What would you say, anyway? “Stop being so [expletive] cheery!”

Yeah, no.

What you can do, however, is put yourself in the goody two-shoes, well, shoes. Maybe they’re truly OK with doing the less-than-fun grunt work. Maybe their professional experience thus far has taught them the value of going a little overboard with the sucking-up. Maybe they even had an experience at a previous job in which they received a bad performance review based on their attitude and decided they never wanted that to come up again.

The thing is, you don’t know why the goody two-shoes has adopted this approach. To some people, the way to get ahead is to put on a good face and forge forward. It’s perfectly fine if that’s not your strategy. You simply need to recognize that it is your co-worker’s. And if it’s working for them, let it be. Remind yourself that as long as you’re doing your job well that their behavior doesn’t reflect badly upon you.

If you can’t muster the patience required to put up with the bright and cheerful attitude day in and day out, you’ll need to develop a coping mechanism that doesn’t involve quitting your job.

When your colleague’s blissed-out behavior gets the best of you, take a deep breath. (You can even try this simple two-minute exercise that’s supposed to bring you calmness.)

Once you’ve used your breath to center yourself, your next move is to retreat—physically if it’s available to you. Maybe you move to an empty seat, take your laptop to the kitchen, or work in a quiet conference room. If you can’t physically move your body, put a pair of headphones on and focus your attention away from the person.

The reality is this: No matter how perfect the job, you’re always going to have annoying co-workers. You’re never going to like every single person you work with.

Be tolerant and thoughtful, and if you can try to see things from a different perspective, you may be able to take it less personally and instead look it as a (slightly annoying) quirk—especially consider that you probably have your own quirks.