Coworker Conundrums


It’s pretty much a national pastime to complain about your job. Even if you’re pretty good at it and the job satisfaction is there, we can all think of something that gets on our nerves.

As humans, we bond more over something we can criticize than something we love. Probably the number one thing we complain about in our jobs is: our co-workers.

It sounds uncharitable, even antisocial, to say it but let’s be honest: unless you have the patience of a particularly easy-going saint, some people will rub you the wrong way. So how do we deal with that? It all depends on what irritates you about your co-workers…

They Talk Too Much

Being friendly is a valuable quality to have, but there is a line. Say you’re in a call centre and your neighbour insists on recounting an anecdote in punishing detail. You can’t just ignore them, you don’t want to shush them, but you don’t know what to do to stop them.

Solution: Raise a hand and hold your headset to your ear, then wince, and say: “sorry, sounded like a call was coming through”. Do this often enough, and they’ll hopefully get the message and find another victim.

Or if you are in an office environment politely tell them that you will catch up with them later and get the scoop then, that right now is not an appropriate time as you have a deadline to meet.

They Don’t Work Hard Enough – And Think Everyone Should Be Like Them

We have all experienced the co-worker who just doesn’t work as hard as everyone else. What’s more, they are judgemental and derisive to those who do work hard. They will sneer at the idea of being made Employee of the Month. If you tell this type of co-worker that you’re trying to improve your knowledge with the likes of or other training courses, they will be dismissive of your efforts. They will belittle your attempts to improve your productivity or get ahead at work.

Solution:  Be frank and honest and say that you don’t want to hear them complain or be put down yourself. You don’t need that kind of negativity. You may also need to report them to your boss if they really are not doing their job or carrying their share of the workload. It is not fair if everyone else has to do their work.

They Think The Job Is Beneath Them

Closely related to the above, there is the co-worker who has already got their education, or that has been there for years in the same job, and thinks they deserve better than a mundane job. They say things like: “I don’t know what I’m doing here – did you know I have a law degree from a school that says is one of the best in the country?”

Of course you know; they don’t get more than three sentences into a conversation without mentioning it.

Solution: Spend as little time around them as possible. If they are constantly coming up to you to complain then be frank and tell them that you don’t like that kind of negativity, and unless they are willing to talk about something else that you would prefer not to talk. It may be harsh but it may be what’s needed. Maybe it would be better if they look for another job too.

They Are Intolerant (And Think You Are Too)

It’s bad enough when someone nearby rants about the things they hate. They have a prejudice about something and don’t care who knows it. But then this type of co-worker doubles down and turns to you, saying: “I’m right, aren’t I?” – including you in their diatribe without warning.

Solution:  Just refuse to agree and join in. There is nothing wrong with saying no I don’t agree with what you have just said and keep on doing your own work. If they want to start a debate about the topic, do not get sucked in. Say you are busy. This is not the time or place to discuss this.

It can be hard to say something to a difficult co-work but unless you set boundaries on what is acceptable and not acceptable behavior around you, they will not know. It is important to stay polite and diplomatic and not attack the co-worker. Some co-workers may react negatively, while others will appreciate you being open and honest. If the situation escalates it may be time to talk to management or HR.


Photo Credit: Pixabay

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