How to Handle a Co-Worker That Drives You Nuts

by Ellie Williams

At some point, you’ll likely encounter a co-worker who annoys you to the point of distraction. He may be a chatterbox who takes up your time with meaningless conversation or a know-it-all who routinely offers unsolicited advice. You can address his behavior directly if you do so in a constructive and diplomatic way.

Understand Him

Before you do or say anything, try to see things from your co-worker’s perspective. His obnoxious habits might be unintentional. If he’s pushy, he may feel the need to prove himself because he’s new or inexperienced. If he constantly asks for your assistance, he may feel unsure of his abilities. If he offers unwanted suggestions or attempts to insert himself into your projects, he may have a need for control. If he uses his speakerphone, takes personal calls all day or hogs the breakroom microwave, he might not understand office etiquette. Determine whether his behavior is malicious, thoughtless or simply bad manners.

Recognize His Strengths

Sometimes it’s the differences between you and a colleague that drive you crazy. Perhaps you’re a “Type A,” no-nonsense professional who likes to jump in and get things done quickly. Your colleague, on the other hand, might like to discuss projects extensively or analyze things thoroughly first. Instead of losing your patience, identify what your co-worker brings to the table. For example, maybe he spots potential problems early or produces stellar work thanks to his focus on preparation. Compliment him on what he does well to let him know you appreciate him and to encourage a positive interaction between the two of you.

Talk to Him

Instead of suffering in silence or quitting your job, talk to your co-worker and seek a resolution. He might not realize his behavior is annoying. Find a time to speak with him privately. Instead of complaining or casting blame, ask for his help. Describe his behavior and how it interferes with your productivity. If he constantly drops by your desk to chat, tell him that with so much work on your plate, you can’t afford to spend time discussing anything not related to your job. Ask him to save conversation for break times and only come to you during work hours if it’s urgent.

Avoid Him

In some cases, it’s best to ignore your colleague’s behavior and distance yourself from him as much as possible. This is especially true if it’s a matter of a personality clash instead of deliberately rude behavior. Try wearing headphones while you work to discourage him from interrupting you. Avoid taking breaks at the same time so you won’t run into him in the breakroom and be drawn into a long personal conversation. Don’t volunteer for projects that require collaborating with him. When you must interact, keep your conversations professional and focused on the task at hand.

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