Co-workers can be the best and the worst thing about your job. Great ones will increase your productivity and make you enjoy the work you do. But annoying co-workers can drag you down, make it hard for you to concentrate and just generally get on your nerves.
Heather Huhman, a career and workplace expert, said nearly all employees are forced to deal with bad co-workers, who range from arrogant and lazy to overly talkative and insatiable. But you can't let their behavior keep you from doing your best work.
"Don't let your annoying co-workers bring you down," Huhman wrote in a Glassdoor blog post. "If you have to cope with someone who drives you nuts, remember, it's all about how you react the situation."
Here's how to maintain your sanity — and peace in the workplace — when dealing with irritating colleagues. [See Related Story: Toxic Co-Worker Test: How to Identify and Avoid Them]
Pinpoint the behavior that bothers you
Dorothy Tannahill-Moran, an author and career coach, said it's a good idea see if you can figure out what specific behavior annoys you. You may be able to come up with a plan to remedy it. In a Careerealism blog post, Tannahill-Moran recounted a co-worker who made all types of demands during her day, and she found it frustrating.
"I finally realized she didn't really understand my job versus her job since she was kind of new," Tannahill-Moran wrote. "Knowing that helped me figure out a plan to curb her impact on me, but you can't fix something until you know exactly what you are fixing."
Find common ground
Employees who have a co-worker they continually butt heads with should try to find a common interest with that person, Huhman said. Try to find at least one thing you can talk about — even if it's just the dislike of the breakroom coffee. This will make working together more tolerable, she said.
Avoid gossiping about the issue
Although you might want to vent to other colleagues about the situation, social worker and psychotherapist Ashley Miller advised staying away from the water cooler.
"While it might be tempting to gossip about your obnoxious co-worker, gossip inevitably comes back to bite you in the long run," Miller wrote for Demand Media. "And gossiping might change the tides and turn you into the annoying co-worker in the eyes of your colleagues."
Reject the co-worker's attention
If the issue with your co-worker involves him or her constantly pestering you with non-work items, Huhman said to diplomatically turn them away.
"Whenever your annoying coworker begins distracting you from your work, politely tell them to respect your space and to only speak to you if their question is work-related," she wrote.
Confront the co-worker directly
If you want to solve the issue once and for all, a direct approach is best. When polite hints don't work, Huhman advised flat-out telling your annoying co-workers thatthey are distracting and have been negatively impacting your productivity.
"Confronting your coworker can take confidence and all of your assertiveness skills, but you have a right to a peaceful work environment," Miller wrote.
Huhman said if you've tried speaking to the co-worker and his or her behavior does not change, the next step is to approach your manager for an intervention.
You might think the co-worker who's constantly bugging you is doing it on purpose, but chances are that he or she is not aware of the impact on you. Huhman recommended maintaining a positive attitude around that person.
"The best thing you can do in this situation is to let the annoying things your co-worker does roll off your back," she wrote. "[Dwelling] on the negative ... can distract you from being productive. At the end of the day, it's up to you to stay focused on what you need to accomplish and to have a positive attitude at work."
Additional reporting by Chad Brooks.