Dealing With An Annoying Coworker

Josh Didawick

Josh Didawick

HR Professional

Regardless of the work you do or where you do it, there is usually a consistent theme to working; it involves other people. We think of these other people as co-workers, but they could be vendors, strategic partners, bosses and subordinates, just to name a few.

No matter who they are or where they stand, there is always a chance that conflict will arise from a bothersome or annoying co-worker. The question becomes how to handle that conflict to ensure that the company still works toward its mission and you get the most out of your job. If you run into a co-worker that gets under your skin, here are 4 steps to deal with that colleague.

Personal or Professional?

The first question to ask is whether this is a personal or professional beef. To be fair, there could be overlap, but are your concerns over how the person is as a person or that person’s role and how they carry out their business?

The reason this is so important, in part, is because we all have roles to play at work. Certain functions in organizations can routinely find themselves at odds. Sales people promise the world and the service or maintenance team may have a difficult time delivering on those promises. This is something organizations have dealt with since the beginning of time.

So how does the conflict manifest itself? Through a lack of communication and/or respect? Are there teams or divisions that are often at odds with one another? Situations like those can be attributed to personal shortcomings. On the other hand, if there is an organizational or structural issue causing the fissure, that is professional. Either way, separating the personal from the professional will allow you to address the appropriate side of the equation, often without making something unnecessarily personal.

Make the Business Case

Keep something in mind; even if you have a colleague that drives you crazy, that same colleague often has people that think they are the greatest. There is truly a match for everyone out there. In the workplace, it should not be about who likes whom, it should be about how you are going to work together to get the job done.

If you have a strained relationship with a co-worker that you should work alongside, figure out the business case for creating a better union. Questions and statements like, “How can we work together better?” or “Help me understand where the breakdown is in our relationship here at work” are good ways to begin a dialogue toward progress.

This strategy can succeed in two ways. If you can show your teammate how the organization is not performing at its best, that should form a natural bond and the two of you can work toward a common goal. On the other hand, if the person still blows you off, you have already done the work to make the business case to the next level in the organization. Your boss does not want to hear about your petty conflict, but your boss may need to understand the issue. Ultimately, you want to be part of the solution.

Take the High Road

If there is a dispute in the workplace, point it out at the appropriate place and time. The appropriate place and time is likely going to be when there is privacy and you and your associate can speak candidly. As hard as it may be sometimes, always try to rise above the fray in a workplace dispute.

If someone you work with starts slinging mud around the office, the more professional you behave, the better off you are going to be in the long run. This also goes for remaining calm and having a positive outlook. Some people are prone to losing their cool in the workplace. At times and in some places this is accepted, but you will build more political capital by keeping things confidential and remaining calm than doing your Mount Vesuvius impersonation.

Another thing to keep in mind that as bad as someone may look, this is not intended to turn into a contest where one person triumphs and the other person must bring you coffee for the next 6 months. This is a job and career; the goal is not necessarily winning an argument; it should be working toward common goals that help move the organization forward.

Explore Ideas with your Boss

If you have tried repeatedly to improve your working relationship with your co-work to no avail, you may need an outside perspective. Your boss should be trusted to maintain the same confidentiality, but may also have a different take on the situation from where she sits in the organization and any relationship she may have with the involved parties.

The other side of the coin is that your boss will need to be aware of the problem so she can address any performance issues before they get worse. You do not want to go to your boss as a tattle-tail or as a first option. As a professional, you should be proactive enough to try to handle the situation on your own, but at a certain point you do want to respect the organization’s interests.

Conflicts are going to arise in any workplace. I expect since the dawn of time there have been turf battles, personality conflicts and the like. Oftentimes our measure as employees is how well (or poorly) we deal with these issues. If you find yourself mired in a dysfunctional workplace relationship, consider these 4 steps to dealing with an annoying co-worker.

About The Author

Josh Didawick
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Josh Didawick

Josh Didawick is a seasoned HR professional and consultant with extensive experience creating and guiding organizations’ HR strategies, as well as coaching individuals committed to successful careers. He specializes in taking on complex organizational issues to affect positive change and high performance. For individuals, Josh helps them put their best foot forward when seeking that next career, promotion or milestone in the workplace. Josh has had several articles published and presented at conferences on HR-related topics.

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