You find yourself suppressing an eye roll as soon as that one guy starts to speak in a meeting. You avoid walking past a colleague’s desk because you just don’t want to get sucked into a conversation with him or her. Every time you have to work on a project with a certain co-worker it ends in a disagreement and nobody is happy with the outcome. But you dream of the day you come into work and don’t feel frustrated, so how can you find a way to get along with a co-worker you just don’t like?
Here are five tips to improve workplace relationships with annoying people.
1. Pinpoint what you don’t like. “Try to get super-clear on the attributes of this person that are rubbing you the wrong way,” says Philadelphia-based executive coach and business strategist Irina Baranov. “Ask yourself what/who they might represent? Are they a reminder of someone from your past? Do they violate some of your own core values? Are they things that you're working on improving in yourself maybe?” Sometimes just by figuring out exactly what it is you don’t like about someone, it becomes easier to compartmentalize and realize it’s not the whole person you don’t like, and you can focus on the other, less grating aspects of their personality.
2. Seek common ground. Kelly Poulson, VP of Talent & Operations at Philly ad agency Allen & Gerritsen, suggests that you “suck it up and spend some time with them.” She says that if you get to know them as a person, and not just a colleague, “inevitably, you’ll be able to find things you’ve got in common. Maybe you’re both dog lovers? Watch the same reality show? Finding some common ground will make it easier to put yourself in that person’s shoes the next time they are driving you up a wall.”
3. Set boundaries. If some colleagues bother you because they ask too many personal questions or latches on to you during lunch breaks, let them know that they’re encroaching. Be friendly and polite, but explain that you’re not really comfortable mixing work and your personal life, or that you like to use your lunch to read or check in with the nanny. People often just don’t realize when they’re getting too chummy.
4. Communicate on their terms. Poulson advises to figure out their communication style. She says to ask these two questions: Does this person prefer phone calls to emails? Will a five=minute chat end email chains for days? If there’s a way that makes it less annoying, do it.
5. Just chill out. Decide you’re going to have a positive attitude, and then do what it takes to live up to it. Maybe you just need to be nicer to them and they won’t be as annoying. Or maybe you need to go to your mental happy place and think about kittens while they talk.
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