Love Your Neighbor: How to Handle Less-Than-Pleasant Coworkers

If you’ve worked in any type of office or business environment, chances are you’ve dealt with at least one coworker that was…to put it nicely…not your favorite.  Whether because of an annoying habit (or two), or downright rude or demeaning behavior, having a fellow employee that drives you up the wall can make going to work each day harder than it already is, and could leave you feeling frustrated, helpless, and possibly even considering leaving your current job.
Before you take that leap (or lose your mind!), try some of these helpful hints to make life at the office more bearable:

  1. The most passive approach to dealing with an unpleasant coworker is to remove yourself from the situation that is causing the trouble as much as possible.  If the coworker has an annoying trait or habit (like chewing gum loudly, spitting, whistling, talking on the phone (not work related), etc., then using earbuds to listen to relaxing music or sounds, having a fan as white noise in your office or cubicle running in the background, or even taking your work to another area (like a staff lounge) could be a great way to diffuse your frustration and give you some space.
  2. Another passive approach is to avoid contact.  Much like the above tip, going out of your way to avoid contact with a coworker that gives you problems is a great way to make your days easier on the job.  This is especially effective with rude, mean, or otherwise unpleasant employees you work alongside.  If you know they eat lunch at a certain time, try to time your own meals differently so you will be in the lounge or break area separately.  If you have cubicles or an open floor plan, attempt to discourage contact by listening to music while you work, and attempting to create “walls” with your body language, seating choice, etc.  This isn’t outright rude, and can be enough to keep those you want at a distance at bay.
  3. If you can’t avoid the person, or remove yourself from the bothersome circumstances, you might have to actually confront the other person, albeit gently.  Honesty is the best policy, and letting them know your feelings could end up being all that’s needed to make the situation better.  Perhaps they didn’t realize they were talking so loudly when on the phone, or they didn’t know their gum/whistling or other habits were noticed by others.  As long as you go in with an attempt at being friendly, chances are you’ll get that type of response in return.
  4. Go to your superior as a last resort.  Sometimes you just can’t fix things yourself, and in these cases, you need to see a superior before your own career ends up being harmed.  Your boss needs to know why you are having problems with a specific coworker, and it works best if you have documented cases of the problem, as well as other employees who can serve as witnesses to your statements.  Taking something to your boss such as the annoying habits listed above is unprofessional and would likely get you into trouble, so that’s not exactly what we’re discussing here.  The types of troubles your boss needs to know about are those that are emotionally or verbally abusive, threatening, or otherwise inappropriate.  This should not be acceptable within the workplace, and your boss will be able to work with you to take the best action possible.

We hope this gives you some confidence in dealing with your own office blues and the coworker(s) you have trouble working alongside.  Ready to find a new career, or looking for a job after a season of unemployment?  We can help with that too.  We are continually recruiting applicants for local Polk County businesses here in the Central Florida area, and you could be the perfect fit.  Give us a call for more information or apply for one of our current openings here on our site!