We will forever be working with at least a few annoying coworkers. And depending on your personality or work style, you may “see” annoying attributes in more people than not.
The goal here is to stop spiraling down the annoyance drain when you have to interact with these people — especially if that annoying coworker is your boss.
From someone who finds little things more annoying than not, here are five ways to get along with super-annoying coworkers — making your work life a whole lot easier.
1. Make a Game Out of It
You can probably point out the various levels of annoying for each of your coworkers— so why not turn that knowledge into a competitive game for yourself? This is an easy way to redirect the angst around your frustration and get some entertainment value out of the situation.
One of my favorite games is setting a goal around how many times Sally will mention a specific project, word, phrase or action during a meeting. For example, Sally always complains about things “not being in her job description/purview.” Which is clearly annoying.
So before a meeting with Sally, I guess how many times she will use that phrase and then keep track during the meeting. When I’m right, I have a fun reward waiting for me; when I’m wrong, I get a giggle out of it and stayed more jovial during the meeting than annoyed.
You can create a game out of just about anything — emails that you get, time between pop-ins, how many times you have to listen to the same story, or projects punted your way. Games will keep you engaged and entertained, while keeping the annoyingness at bay.
2. Focus On Their Strengths
Sometimes games aren’t enough. Instead, shift your focus on the person’s strengths. If they aren’t quite obvious, do some digging. My internal track usually consists of: She works here for a reason — what is that reason? How has she been able to keep her job? What is she valued for? What can she deliver?
Through those questions, you should be able to find your coworker’s strength(s). And perhaps you got to know the person a bit more through your investigation as well. Next time the person gets on your nerves, reflect back to their good qualities with copious amounts of deep breaths.
3. Make Them Feel Valued
Everyone likes a good ego boost — especially your coworkers. The more you can create a decent “relationship” with them, the easier it will be to let their annoying traits slide off your back — or they will stop altogether.
Bring them into the fold of a big project or fun thing you’re working on; make them feel valued and a part of your team. People respond to feeling included and want that feeling to continue. Even if you have to take one for the team for a few minutes each day, you’ll be making a positive, lasting impression on your annoying coworker… which will hopefully make them less miserably annoying.
4. Become a Resource
This is one of the hardest things to do, and it gets harder the more annoying the person is. But sometimes being annoying comes from not knowing enough or not having the resources to figure things out. I won’t even get into the “why” behind this or how it’s clearly not reasonable to us less-annoying folks, but I digress…
Be that missing puzzle piece for your coworker by being a resource. Offer assistance, knowledge or even an ear when they least expect it. If they see you as someone who will be on their side or help them solve issues, they will be less likely to burn that bridge and consciously push your buttons.
5. Put Headphones On
If all else fails, headphones are a great backup plan. Seriously. Sometimes annoying people can disrupt your work and get you so far off track, you can’t even see the road back.
Don’t let these people dictate your success in your role — take the quiet back! I wouldn’t recommend having headphones on all the time, but if you need to focus without distraction, on they go. You can use similar techniques with your email — turn off your send/receive function while focusing, or use various programs or filters to delay the response/view of messages.
In the End
Being annoyed is a choice… well, that’s what they tell me, at least. But what is true is that you have the power to react to your annoying coworkers — or, more importantly, not react.
When people get results through pushing your buttons, they will continue to do so. Sometimes silence and inaction will give you more results than constantly fighting the annoyance spiral.
This post originally ran on CareerMeh: smart, actionable advice for Millennials, by Millennials.