When you’ve got your nose to the grindstone and the person sitting at the desk beside you has gotten on your last nerve, it could take all you have left to endure whatever’s annoying you and resist the urge to fly to a tiny island somewhere to retreat from the rat race. It happens to the best of us, but there’s hope.
Keep reading to learn how to keep your cool and respond practically when your coworker threatens to squash your seemingly last shred of sanity by doing very common, but incredibly annoying things.
1. They chat you up when it’s really inconvenient.
When you’re dealing with a light workload, your desk neighbour stays as silent as a statue, but when the pressure’s on and a deadline is looming, they talk a mile a minute. Sound familiar?
Combat this problem by firmly telling your colleague that you’d love to hear about their weekend plans, but you’ve got to stay on task to get stuff finished. If they ignore your request, it may be necessary to sit at your desk while donning a pair of earbuds. Even if you don’t play anything through them, they tend to give the effect of lettings others know a person doesn’t want to be bothered.
2. They talk way too loudly.
Some people skillfully disrupt otherwise quiet office environments with just the volume of their voices. If you have the unfortunate luck of sitting next to one of them, a bit of awareness may be all that’s needed to make the other person change their ways. Using straightforward language, explain that the volume of the person’s voice is much too loud for an office environment. “Lisa, can you try using your ‘inside voice,’ please?”
3. They’re mean girls (or guys).
Maybe your colleague is like the living version of a tabloid magazine cover, except instead of rambling about which celebrities’ marriages may be on the rocks, they blabber on about things related to people who live locally or, even worse, people in your office. When the gossip mill gets going and your colleague wants to drag you straight into it, immediately distance yourself from the conversation. If you can’t figure out a quick and truthful way to do that, say you have to go take a personal phone call outside. Bonus: Offer a compliment about whoever the person is trying to diss, then change the subject.
4. They make themselves at home when they’re not even an invited guest.
Since your desk neighbour already sits all too close to you, it would seem they have no reason to be even more intrusive. Yet, as if they were abiding by an unwritten law, perhaps they stick their head into your cubicle as a first step and then quickly put their jacket on the back of your empty chair before sitting down, all without ever asking you if it’s okay to come in and get perched.
In that case, your best course of action is to limit the amount of available sitting space in your cubicle before the coworker even gets to work and settles down at their own desk. Pile as many things as you can onto the empty chair by occupying it and the seat with your own things. If your office space has a closable door, shut it and hang a “do not disturb” sign in a conspicuous place.
5. They steal your lunch!
When lunchtime rolls around, the chance to savour a bit of food before diving back into your to-do list can be a welcome reward. However, there’s nothing that’ll dash your anticipation faster than reaching into the break room fridge for your lunch and realising it isn’t there because someone decided to take it.
Of course, the situation gets much worse if, while trying to determine the person to blame, you look over at the next desk and see the occupant blatantly enjoying it. Sometimes you may even realise that the person to blame is your superior.
There are several things you can do in this instance. Firstly, clearly label everything you put into the fridge, so there’s no possibility the person truly made an honest error. Then, if you catch them actually eating food you know is yours, confront them by saying something like “Hey, that’s my lunch,” preferably in a tone and volume that makes others take notice. Sometimes, being publicly caught is enough to make the lunch thief not try the tactic again.
If you don’t like being directly confrontational but the problem keeps happening, consider going to the human resources manager and having a private chat about the matter. Taking that approach could be especially useful if you have indisputable proof.
Finally, if you’re really fed up, forgo using the fridge. An insulated lunch container and a few ice packs may become your new best office pals, and they’ll ensure you never again have to feel the fury that comes once you’ve realised someone else is chowing down on the food that was meant for your stomach!