Your co-worker, you know the one who needs a cubicle archaeologist to free important paperwork from beneath coffee stained mugs; the one who spends all her time talking (loudly) on the phone to her boyfriend about her plans for the night; the one who insists on running his yogurt spoon against his teeth every morning before you’ve even fetched a cup of coffee; the one who always has an opinion but never pitches in constructively; the one who smells of your second grade teacher’s perfume. Yes, that’s the one.
We spend more time with our office mates than our families sometimes, and just like family little annoyances quickly stack up to large grievances if left unchecked. If your co-workers are irksome, employ some easy tactics to diffuse the situation.
Take Care of Yourself
If I don’t eat on a regular schedule, I turn into a beast. Often the anger emerges before I even feel hungry. During one particularly stressful string of event planning, I stayed busy all day making phone calls and packaging peripherals for the attendees. Around four that afternoon, I finally surfaced from my hyper-focused state when my co-worker began twisting in her chair and making a repetitive creaking noise.
She must have made this sound a thousand times before, but on this day the creaks sent me over the edge and I called out for her to calm down. As soon as the words escaped my mouth, I knew I needed to eat. Fortunately, all it took to mend my error was a quick explanation of my hunger and we took a trip to the breakroom together. Don’t take your hunger, headache, wild night, or illness out on a co-worker. Keep yourself well-fed, well-rested, and well-hydrated. Healthy relationships start with healthy bodies.
Talk About It
If a habit still annoys you, take it to the source. Exercise sympathy and understanding. Respect the tenor of your relationship to that moment so far. If someone’s perfume is a bother, but you only have an acquaintance-level of interaction telling her that the rosewater is suffocating might be a bit much. Instead, opt for a civilized discussion about how, though lovely, heavy scents give you headaches or sneezes.
Honesty is the best and only policy if you expect changes to happen. Stewing in your own juices hurts productivity. Often co-workers don’t know how they are impacting you, give them the benefit of the doubt and talk about it.
I worked with a girl who hated me. For some reason everything I did rubbed her the wrong way. Her dislike for me meant she talked about me behind my back to clients and impacted my work by refusing to collaborate.
I could have spent time planting land mines for her step in, luring the boss over to catch her on a social network or witness her snark. Instead I requested time with my boss to discuss our working relationship.
I approached the meeting without accusing her of wrongdoing. I only highlighted where our communication breakdowns were and did not embarrass her with the messier details.
We both left the meeting on level ground, and whenever things got out of hand or I felt her ire rising I would bring up the conversation. From that baseline, we always managed to find a way to work together.
Ultimately, we developed a working friendship, and I discovered she was not happy with her career path. She regretted not pursuing her original career choice of dental hygiene. I helped her research a good dental hygiene program of study and she began to lay the foundation of acquiring a new degree in a new field.
Sometimes mediation helps uncover hidden reasons for complaints that are easily repaired.
Get Over It (or ask for a cubicle transfer)
Forgiveness makes everything easier. Whether choosing to forgive a spoon scraper or a co-worker talking behind your back, forgiveness frees up mental space that should be devoted to work. Letting go of an ingrained annoyance may not sound easy, however it can be as simple as getting up to take a breath of fresh air when someone starts talking loudly on the phone or twisting her desk chair. The freedom of forgiveness will help encourage better relationships with your co-workers and create more mental room to innovate and achieve goals together.
Getting along at the office isn’t always easy, but it’s something that differentiates the professionals from everyone else.