How to deal with annoying (but harmless) colleagues

By Shi Tianyun

They are everywhere – a fellow worker who somehow manages to get under your skin all the time. They aren’t exactly malicious – they actually mean no harm but somehow you just feel that the workplace will be a much happier place if they just stop (fill in the blank with annoying habit here).

If the co-worker that makes you cringe falls under these five categories, don’t worry, we have got some tips to keep them at bay.

The Interrupter

They are disguised as well-meaning co-workers who somehow always manage to come by your desk with some “news” when you so happen to be in the middle of an important task that requires your undivided attention. And no, he doesn’t take “no” for an answer even if you are engrossed in a work conversation with another colleague – he cannot wait and needs to tell you now.

The solution:

Be direct. Tell him firmly you have a deadline to rush for but kindly offer your ears to him during lunchtime. Chances are, he just wants your attention and will be suitably placated with your suggestion.

However, if he doesn’t get the idea, ignore him. The polite way to do so is, if your company permits its employees to listen to music while working, simply plug in your headphones. When he comes over with the latest gossip, simply smile at him with an apologetic shrug and get on with work.

The Whiner

This particular colleague has many reincarnations – Grumpy, Naysayer – but one thing remains the same, she’s the wettest blanket in the department. She predicts the failure of every project and never fails to put a damper on everything. If it was up to her, the world would end next week.

The solution:

Stay the eternal optimist. Flash her your biggest smile each time she frowns and reassure her that things aren’t that bad as she thinks they are – in fact, they are just dandy! If there’s anything a pessimist dislikes, it’s someone positive. She will soon realise that she can’t feed off your cheerfulness and will skulk elsewhere to prey on someone else.

The Loudmouth

You hear her before you actually see her and you hear her everywhere. Not only do you know every detail of her discussion with the manager, no thanks to her loud volume, she happily broadcasts her after- work plans when chatting with pals on the speakerphone, oblivious to whoever is around.

The solution:

She may not be aware that she was born with inbuilt loud hailers, so take her aside and kindly request for her to tone it down a little because you are easily distracted by noise.

Of course if the above doesn’t work, investing in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones should do the trick!

The Nosy Parker

It’s as though he has eyes everywhere, spying on your every move. He never fails to sneak a look at your computer screen whenever he walks past and has no qualms about asking too many, too personal questions. The nosy parker has no concept of personal space and privacy.

The solution:

Pull him away and tell him that you do not appreciate his behaviour. Even if he denies looking over your shoulder to see what you are browsing onscreen, you have established that you are aware of what he’s doing and do not take kindly to his actions.

But if he doesn’t back off, install a privacy filter on your screen and if he continues to pester you with intrusive questions, just reply with a curt “It’s none of your business”.

The Drama Mama

Her life is an emotional rollercoaster – one minute she’s on top of the world because someone asked her out and the next, she’s in the depths of despair when her dog is sick. You are fearful each time you approach her at work because you have no idea whether she will be grinning or in tears.

The solution:

Be on her side and show her support. Be sympathetic if she’s in a rut or if she’s riding one of her highs, share in her joy – for a few minutes. Then bring her back to reality gently by reminding her that she still has a job to do at hand and it would be great if she could concentrate on that task for the moment – for the overall good for the team.

All things said and done, what happens if your colleague continues to drive you up the wall? Or worse case scenario, he or she reacts in an explosive or highly defensive way that gets out of hand and begins to affect your productivity at work? It’s time to alert the management.

But before you storm up to your boss or HR to lodge a complaint, keep these points in mind so you won’t appear like a whiner.
• Define the problem as a work and not personal complaint. The last thing your manager wants to settle is personality differences in the office.
• Always go to him with a solution in tow. By providing a feasible suggestion like moving desks away from Mr Loudmouth, you show that you want to help the situation.

Remember, you can’t always choose the people you work with and a perfect workplace is not realistic but by accepting the fact that not everyone is going to get along can be a good compromise and solution.

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