A shocking number of Americans quit their jobs because of irritating coworkers. Here’s what to do if you’re nearing the breaking point.
Shut the door on irritating coworkers.
That’s literally what many Americans do. About one in three people say they’ve left a job because of an annoying coworker(s), according to a recent survey of 2,000 working Americans released by Olivet Nazarene University.
While most of us haven’t had to go to that extreme, it’s clear that annoyance at coworkers runs rampant. One in five people say that they have one coworker who annoys them on a regular basis, while 73% say they have been two and five who do.
5 most annoying things coworkers do
1. They’re loud and complain a lot (49% cite this as the thing that annoys them most)
2. They gossip and bully (32%)
3. Their bathroom or eating habits are atrocious (12%)
4. Their email or meeting habits are bad (6%)
5. Their personal hygiene isn’t good (1%)
What should you do if a co-worker is seriously getting on your nerves? Here are four things.
Know when to speak up — and shut up. If the “annoyance” you’re facing is harassment, “you should right now, stop reading and schedule a meeting with HR,” says NYC-based career strategist Carlota Zimmerman. Anything that impacts how safe and comfortable you feel in your job, including all kinds of harassment and abuse, needs to be reported.
“But if you’re surrounded by tedious coworkers talking about ‘like omg how amazing Kim K is’ …go take a walk,” says Zimmerman. “Your career goals, your potential, depends on your ability to rise above your pettiness.”
Of course, it’s the grey area that’s often toughest to navigate, so consider this rule of thumb: If their behavior is making it more difficult for you to do your job or hurting the business or department in some way, you should likely say something; if it’s just that you don’t like their personality, keep it zipped, says Scott Mautz, CEO of Profound Performance, a workshop, coaching and online training company.
Look at where the person is coming from. “Proceed with curiosity and not contempt. Try to look at them like a fascinating study in human behavior to see where they’re coming from,” says Mautz. Once you realize that, say, they barely speak in the group meetings because they’re insecure — rather than a slacker — you may be more able to cope with that behavior.
Know how to speak up. If you decide to confront a coworker over their irritating behavior, do it delicately, as “you can get your own unpleasant reputation,” if you handle it badly, says Zimmerman. “A gentle, calm, but clear approach is a good way to start,” says Dr. Jude Miller Burke, author of “Millionaire Mystique: How Working Women Become Wealthy – And How You Can, Too!”.
Lead into the conversation by complimenting or saying something positive about the person, says Mautz. And, he adds, consider blaming the deadline or project you’re working on — so you might say, “I’m under the gun on this project because the president is coming to town soon. Do you mind taking your conversation elsewhere?”. Finally “thank them for being open enough to receive this feedback,” says executive coach Nancy Halperin, principal at KNH Associates.
Realize when it’s time to compromise — and to quit. Speaking up may not stop the behavior — especially if that person thinks they have a right or need to do it — but rather than seethe in silence, consider a compromise, says Mautz. If the person feels they need to read aloud to understand concepts and you can’t concentrate when they do it, ask them to work in one of the conference rooms for a little bit of the day, and you will do the same.
Sometimes a co-worker may be so toxic that you feel you have to move to a new job. If that happens, first, “explore other options first such as moving your desk, or being assigned to another team,” says Halperin. If those don’t work, you may need to leave. Burke suggests that these situations may be signals that it’s time to go: ongoing sleep disturbance due to the issues; no hope for the situation to get better; emotional turmoil that has become the norm, not just sporadic; bullying behavior that the organization fails to stop; an overall unhealthy culture from the top to the bottom.
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