12 Mar 2018

Lisa Rabasca Roepe


Photo courtesy of Pexels/Tim Gouw

Tighter workspaces have made it tricker to manage office dynamics.

If you find yourself getting annoyed when your co-worker eats a smelly lunch, chatters endlessly with another colleague, talks too loud on the phone or forgets to clean up after him or herself, you’re alone. A recent study by Olivet Nazarene University found that 100% of respondents get annoyed with their colleagues. And, typically it’s not just one co-worker who gets on our nerves—73% said two to five co-workers are annoying on a regular basis.

The most common grievances? Nearly half (49%) said loudness and complaining, followed by gossip and bullying (32%).

In a separate study by Comparably, 45% percent of women and 33% of men say they have a co-worker who makes them want to quit their job. Another Comparably 36% of employees, age 25 or younger, say their co-workers’ political beliefs impact their working relationships.

With all the emphasis on open office space and co-working arrangements, it’s much harder to manage interpersonal interactions, says Nancy Halpern, principal at KNH Associates in New York City. “There’s not a lot of soundproofing,” she says. “If you encourage open, frequent, daily exchanges without any boundaries, people are going to complain and gossip.”

According to the study, 78% of respondents said they’ve confronted their co-workers about their behavior. However, nearly half (47%) said, rather than confront their co-worker directly, they’ve asked another colleague to speak to annoying co-worker.

Being confrontational or enlisting your colleague to talk with your co-worker typically doesn’t help. “Constantly being on a colleague for their behavior or office etiquette isn’t going to make them a better co-worker,” says Jill Santopietro Panall, owner and chief consultant at 21Oak HR Consulting, LLC in Boston. Here’s what to do instead.

Determine what you can control

Instead of asking your colleague to change their behavior, consider whether you can mitigate the problem on your own, Panall says. If a co-worker is a loud talker, try noise-canceling headphones, or if their fan is making you too cold, put on a sweater.

Explain the impact of their behavior

Rather than saying, “It drives me nuts when you yell across the cubes to ask Joe a question,” tell your co-worker, “I’ve observed that you often will yell across the cubes to ask Joe a question. The impact of that is if I’m talking on the phone when you yell to Joe, I can’t hear the person on the other end of the phone. Perhaps you could walk over to Joe’s cube to talk with him?”

Don’t make it personal

It’s doubtful your co-worker is intentionally spending the afternoon shelling peanuts at his desk just to drive you up the wall. “The hardest thing to realize is they aren’t doing it to annoy you,” Panall says. “They’re just doing it in the same space you’re in.”

Frame it as a favor

Your co-worker might not realize the entire office can hear every phone conversation and they might thank you for this information. Rather than telling her to stop talking so loud, you could say, “I don’t know if you noticed, but when you talk on the phone, your voice gets really loud and everyone can hear every word you say. I’m sure that’s not what you want.”

Say thank you

Negative feedback is never easy to hear so take a minute to thank them for listening to your feedback, Halpern says. Tell them you appreciate their efforts to make a change.


Read the full article here.
This content was originally published by Forbes Magazine. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Forbes Magazine

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