You get to pick a few things in life – like your spouse, your friends, and your career if you’re lucky – but some decisions aren’t yours to make. Like who sits in the cubicle next to you. An annoying officemate can quickly escalate from a minor inconvenience to the bane of your existence, causing you to dread going to work, struggle to stay productive, or even land on the office naughty list yourself.
But we’re here to tell you that you have more control over your work experience than you might believe, even if you work with the most annoying person in the world.
Here is a quick and easy reference guide to help you deal with annoyances at work, specifically when they stem from a particular person you cannot avoid:
1. Speak up
A vast majority of annoying people don’t even realize that their habits might annoy those around them. By simply stating, “I can’t focus when you’re clicking your pen like that,” you might be able to single-handedly resolve most of your complaints in a single exchange. The point is to be calm, specific and succinct; you don’t want it to turn into a long drawn-out conversation, but a way to bring a solution to a problem. Here are some great tips and tricks for having difficult conversations at work if you need a little guidance before diving in.
2. Get to know them
Orson Scott Card said it best: “In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not them the way they love themselves.”
By opening yourself up to your coworker and putting effort into building a friendship, you’ll begin to notice the things you like about them, which can overshadow the things you dislike about them or at least put them in better perspective. Even more importantly, you’ll gain an understanding of what drives their actions and behaviors, which can help you be more accepting and forgiving.
3. Be mindful
Only you can control your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors – not the jerk who cut you off on your way to work this morning and not your annoying coworker. Mindfulness can help you recognize and redirect your frustration before it changes the course of your day. Here are a few tips:
- Adjust your expectations; expectations that are too high result in frustration and disappointment
- Reframe your thoughts from, “Why am I here?” to, “I’m here because I choose to be here. I’m happy because I choose to be happy.”
- Take a deep breath when you begin to feel frustrated; reground yourself by placing your feet on the floor and feeling the ground beneath them
get your mind off of the annoyance by diving into a challenging, meaningful project or task
What not to do
Whatever you do, DON’T take these routes:
Don’t ask to be moved if you ever hope to advance in the organization. Leaders have to get results out of all kinds of people with no excuses. Asking for a new teammate or officemate due to personality differences is like advertising your ill-preparedness for promotion to the people who have your fate in their hands.
Don’t allow your coworker to drive your own behaviors. If you have an outburst or miss a deadline because of your annoyance, it reflects only on you. Don’t use your coworker’s shortcomings as an excuse for your own.
Don’t wait until you start with a company to understand their culture and values. Working with people who are like-minded, and in organizations that have high standards and a very selective hiring process, can improve your chances of working alongside people that don’t completely drive you nuts. Do yourself a favor and always check employer reviews on a company before accepting an offer.
Key takeaway: only you can direct your day, regardless of your cube mate.