Have you ever had a coworker who just won’t stop talking while you’re trying to concentrate? How about a manager who constantly criticizes your best efforts, just for the sake of asserting their authority? When it comes to irritating colleagues, almost everyone can relate.
Although work relationships are not marriages — you (probably) won’t be dealing with your current coworkers for the rest of your life — the same problem-solving and give-and-take techniques that make home relationships work can be utilized in an office or workplace.
Whatever your current situation, following these maxims will help smooth out the problem and bring your work life back to level ground.
- Positivity Wins
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar — that is, if you’re into catching flies. But whenever someone is annoying you (i.e., using earphones cranked as loud as speakers or hogging the copy machine), getting upset will just raise your blood pressure and theirs. Enter every situation with a smile on your face. Force the physical motion of that smile, and the mind will follow!
- Speak Up Early
There’s nothing worse than stewing in passive aggressive resentment for months. Eventually, your anger will boil into fury, and the person behind it all may have had no idea you were upset. If somebody does something that bothers you once, it’s okay to let it slide. But if the same thing happens again, say something! For introverted people, this can be difficult, so make a point to assert yourself early. The longer a situation builds up, the tougher it is to address it.
- Find Neutral Territory
Sometimes, fixing a problem with a coworker simply requires removing yourselves from the work environment and leveling one-on-one as humans. I’m not saying you need to take your mean boss to happy hour and feed him beer until he hugs you, but a lunch can go a long way. Address the issue in question right off the bat. Over a meal, you’ll likely have some time after the initial conversation that you’re forced to get to know each other. By strengthening your relationship as peers outside of work, you will alleviate the problems you were facing far more than just a five minute “Hey, don’t do that!” conversation in the office might have accomplished.
- Be Honest
If you’ve already taken the initiative to speak up, don’t put your tail between your legs when it’s time to talk about what’s bothering you. Maybe a coworker on your team isn’t pulling their load, and you need to let them know that the extra time they’re causing you to put in isn’t going to fly. It’s good to listen to their situation and understand any reasons why they’re not contributing at an acceptable level, but the bottom line should be that you’re going to work together to find a way to increase their level of contribution.
No matter where you work (even if your business relationships are solely via phone and email), there will always be colleagues who annoy or irritate you in some way. Many of these are worth ignoring, but any time that a coworker makes your job more difficult on a regular basis, it needs to be addressed. Just remember to be friendly and forthcoming. Have a conversation — not a confrontation. Chances are, by addressing the issue, you’ll wind up with a stronger relationship that makes your job and your life easier than it was before speaking up.