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How to deal with annoying people at work?

Written By

Dorothy Tannahill Moran

Owner of Next Chapter New Life Coaching

Briefly Speaking

Wondering what your best options are if another employee irritates you incessantly? Find out how to deal with annoying people at work now.
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You know this person — every interaction with them leaves you ticked off and annoyed.  They may have mannerisms that simply flip your switch or they seem to know exactly what to do that will leave you spinning for the rest of the day. 

A work mate who irritates you can do anything from simply just bug you because they smell bad or say demeaning things to you.  The range of behavior can be vast.  How to deal with annoying people in the workplace so they don’t completely spoil each day at work?

Here are some tips to help you with this situation:

  • This isn't about you.  While it may seem like the person has a personal issue with you, most of the time a person’s behavior is more about how they feel about themselves.  Try as best you can to not take what they say personally.  They may not even be aware of what they are doing or even why they are doing it.
  • Avoid them.  You’d be surprised to realize that if you put your mind to it, you can probably cut down on the amount and frequency of your interactions with this person.  Even if they parade into your office, be too busy to stop what you’re doing. Ask them to e-mail or leave a note with their request or information.  When you reduce what and how you interact with someone it often improves your interaction with them.  Minimally, you are reducing the impact to you personally when you reduce your contact.
  • Figure out the irritation factor.  You may not know why they bug you, so it’s best to figure out what specific behavior they do that get you going.  I used to have a person descend on me and make all kinds of demands while eating into my day in a very big way.  I finally realized she didn’t really understand my job versus her job since she was a relatively new employee.  Knowing that helped me figure out a plan to curb her impact on me. You can’t fix something until you know exactly what you’re fixing.
  • Make a fix plan.  You may discover that even with reducing your contact that your interactions are still unproductive.  You will need to put together a plan to improve things.  You first have to look to yourself at what you can do differently that may help.  Can you change how you respond?  Can you delay your reaction so with a clear head you can figure out how to respond most effectively? Are you doing something that causes this person to act a certain way to you?You can only control what you do so it’s best to look to yourself first.  Naturally, you may need to engage with them but you can’t control how they will react or if they can even make the changes necessary.  Even though you may feel like a victim, there are still actions you can and should make that will help.
  • Engage them professionally.  No matter how they may be acting toward you, you want to maintain a professional approach when learning how to  deal with annoying people at work directly.  This means you don’t accuse, blame or make sweeping assumptions.  You and your language should remain focused on behavior and not attitude.  You want to be able to articulate what the impact is on you and how that translates into a business problem.  You need to be prepared to identify specific examples so they can translate what you say into an instance they can relate to.  When you do approach them, make your discussion private to spare any poor reactions from public embarrassment.

It would be great to think that when we are hired that we do our work, enjoy the people we work with and get promoted.  The path through our career is never that simple or straight. You will need to learn how to work with difficult people at various times and it will require you to take some action to improve your work life.

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