How to deal with a coworker that’s driving you crazy

There’s the coworker who lingers in your door, delivering every detail of her personal life while you’re trying to work.  There’s the guy who shouts questions at you over the cubicles, or the one who pesters you for a reply to an email mere moments after sending it to you.

Some coworkers contribute to the team and stay within professional social bounds in the office setting, but others can overstep in ways that drive you to distraction.  What can you do to curb annoying behaviors and stop coworkers from driving you crazy?  Here are a few options.

Set boundaries

If you want to put the kibosh on constant distractions, you can set boundaries, quite literally.  If you have an office door, close it to signal that you’re working and should not be disturbed.  Stuck in a cubicle or open setting?  Put on some headphones if your office allows.  Coworkers may be less inclined to interrupt if you’re not immediately responsive to your name being called.

Create canned responses

If constant interruptions are an issue, it’s best to arm yourself with an arsenal of responses meant to signal your inability to participate.  For the coworker that drones on about non-work issues, simply say something like, “I’m sorry, I can’t talk right now.  I’m working on a deadline.”  For those who come in person for an immediate response to an email they just sent, say, “I’m right in the middle of something, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”

If you’re dealing with coworkers that yell across the room, try walking to their desk to respond and telling them you didn’t want to yell back and disturb other employees who are also trying to get work done.  Be polite, but firm in your responses when coworkers are driving you batty.

Broach the subject one-on-one

If your coworkers don’t get the clue from your polite responses and they persist in annoying behaviors, it’s time for a sit-down.  The trick here is to be honest and try not to go on the offensive.  Frame it in a way that tells them how their behavior affects you, like how you can’t get your work done effectively.  This way they won’t feel attacked and they’re likely to be more responsive.

Consult with your boss or HR

If you’ve tried everything and you can’t stop an annoying coworker from pestering you, it’s time to kick the issue up the ladder by voicing your concerns to your boss.  If the issue is more than annoying, if it’s a matter of harassment, you may need to consider speaking to an HR representative.

Post by Sarah Harris

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