Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Seven Ways to Deal with the Co-Worker Who is Driving You Nuts

OK, time to fess up. I don't care how nice you are, there's someone at work who is driving you nuts. It's either the guy who clips his fingernails while on the phone and leaves the droppings all over the floor, or the woman who complains nonstop about her worthless, freeloading kids. It could be the person who constantly interrupts, butting into your conversations or the guy who has to always trumpet his every success, no matter how small. ("I just reloaded my stapler!")

It’s not enough that you put in long hours on the job, sit in boring meetings and put up with irate customers. No, on top of the bad coffee and the elevator that always gets stuck between floors, you’ve got to put up with the aggravation in the next cubicle, also known as a co-worker.

You’re ready to crack. You like your job, but you can't stand another day with one or more of your co-workers. You don't want to complain to the boss -- how to explain that someone's nasal voice makes you want to shove your favorite snow globe up his nose?

Don’t despair. There is a way to handle a bothersome co-worker without screaming, quitting or running to the boss:

* Write down the things that really, really bug you. Separate personal issues (she laughs like a hyena) from the professional ones (she interrupts when you’re talking). It’s not your place to comment on personal pet peeves, but rather on the professional issues that prevent you from doing your job as efficiently and productively as possible. And remember: Only address issues that directly impact you.

* Speak to the person directly. Schedule some time with her, in a private area where you won’t be interrupted and she won’t feel compelled to lash out because she’s embarrassed in front of others. Be specific about your complaints. "You’re always interrupting,” isn’t helpful. Say, “I believe you interrupt me when I’m trying to make a point in team meetings.” Try to provide an example.

* Ask for change. Once you’ve outlined the problem, then be specific about what you want to happen. “When I’m speaking, I’d like to finish my sentence so that I can make sure all members of the team understand and then I’ll answer questions or listen to other opinions.”

* Be honest. If the co-worker’s actions are really ticking you off, then say so. Describe how frustrated you feel when she pops above the cubicle partition to offer her unsolicited advice. Remain calm while describing how you feel – it will have much more impact than pitching a fit.

* Cut to the bottom line. Make it clear that you’re not bringing up these issues because you’re a whiny sourpuss. State why the issue is important in a calm, serious way.

* Fess up. You need to be honest that you’ve let the issue go on too long without speaking up, or you should have communicated more strongly your beliefs. Make sure she understands that it stops now.

* Look for solutions. Let the other person save face by helping you come up with ways to stop the problem.

So, what's the thing that drives you crazy about your co-workers?

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Taking Cheap Shots

Let’s be honest here: Sometimes when we don’t get our way at work, we can resort to the sort of cheap, immature shots best reserved for squabbling 5-year-olds in the pre-school sandbox.

Example 1: The “I’m way smarter than you” argument.
Remember when you used to argue with your friends about where babies came from? There was always the kid who had the real scoop on what went on between Mommy and Daddy to make Junior, and was willing to share that knowledge in vastly superior tones. The same often happens in the workplace with the “superior” knowledge one worker constantly seems to have. His or her smarts are not used to educate or help others in a positive way, but rather as an attempt to lord his or her knowledge over others. Using your intelligence to bully others or place yourself in an “authority” position on nearly every subject is obnoxious and unprofessional. Instead of others seeking you out for your knowledge, they’re likely to try and avoid you, and that can seriously hurt your career.

Example 2: The “People like her…” judgment.
If there’s one thing we should have learned in our lives is that it’s dangerous – not to mention stupid – to categorize people. Do you like being put into a category? Most people don’t. They consider themselves to be individuals, and usually don’t appreciate someone else forming opinions about them without the facts. So, the next time you think you can predict someone’s behavior, stop and take the time to ask the person questions and use the interaction as a chance for you to learn and grow. You can miss some key opportunities, and make some really big mistakes, by trying to pigeonhole people.

Example 3: The “I yell a lot” excuse.
If you were the kid who kicked sand all over your friends in the sandbox when you didn’t get your way, you may have come to realize that you have a temper. But to use that as an excuse to browbeat others at work, or explode in a tantrum when you are under stress, is extremely short-sighted. It can be very difficult to overcome a bad reputation at work, and someone who shows no willingness to control bad habits will find promotions, top projects and pay raises passing him by.

Bosses often put together diverse groups of people based on their strengths and weaknesses. Maybe you’re not the most organized, but your high-energy “I can tackle anything” perfectly complements the detail-oriented person. The key is remembering that you should always look to bring your strengths into play in order to help the bottom line, and work on improving your bad habits so that they don’t drag down your career or your company.

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