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Sick of your annoying colleagues?
Simar Preet Kaur
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July 13, 2007

It can be really annoying.

You battle the Monday morning blues, charge yourself for the week ahead and step into office, ready to take on the tasks at hand.

Just as you settle down at your desk, the self-appointed office monitor, who pretends to only have your professional goodwill at heart, stops by. Cracks a 'joke' about the time you walked in. Thoughtfully points out that your computer is still not switched on. Gently commiserates the fact that your first task of the day is still pending. All in a loud voice so that your boss, who happens to be within earshot, hears every word.

Let's admit it. Dealing with co-workers can be difficult.

At times, everything else at work can be great. Still, you could be tempted to quit, or seriously look around for other pastures, because of one annoying colleague.

Even reading books like The Idiot's Guide To Dealing With Difficult Co-workers does little good when you are sitting next to a shrill-voiced colleague who feels the entire office must hear each syllable he/ she utters.

If not, it can be the incessant ringing of a colleague's phone or, worse still, an extra-creative, irritating ring tone on their cell. It could, perhaps, be regular goof-ups with simplest jobs. Or eavesdropping into everything from printouts to chat windows on your computer, going for private, back-stabbing meetings with the boss, or grabbing a bite of your meal without permission.

These seemingly minor 'issues' can build into massive tension points that often threaten to break into messy confrontations, and lead to bad vibes at work.

For the sake of simplification, let's narrow it down to the five common anathemas:

First, and most common, is the egoistic boss, who ensures all your intelligent attempts and breakthroughs remain under the carpet.

Second: Mr Know-it-all, alternatively called Mr Aggressive. They pretend they know everything within a day of joining the company. They like to think they are the only professional people around and everyone else could learn a thing or two from them.

Third: Mr Lazy. They walk in at noon and walk out at 6 pm sharp. In case they are compelled to stay longer, they ensure they goof up their work, and the work their colleagues are doing.

Fourth: The whiner. They are good at work, in some cases better than most. Unfortunately, their whining casts a pall over any good work they do.

Fifth: The gossip mongers. They like talking and confabbing, particularly about their colleagues. You can be sure their words are not kind or complimentary.

We asked working professionals how they dealt with annoying colleagues and got a variety of responses.

Tyrel Rodricks, a musician from Mumbai, says: "If I feel the other person may understand my problem, I generally talk it through. Talking doesn't just help alleviate some of the grievances, it can also bring to light some of that person's problems. It's a completely different matter if the person annoying you is your boss though."

However, not everyone takes this patient route.

Aaron Jason, a graphic designer from Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), says, "Sarcasm is how I deal with it, but not to a confrontational extent. When they ask questions, I never answer straight. I always confuse and frustrate them."

Jitinder Singh, a go-getter from Delhi, has a more finespun solution: "I don't take well to pseudo-bosses. I just ignore them and deliberately delay my work to piss them off even more. Eventually, they get the message and back off. The technique I adopt is to keep my cell out of reach by removing the batteries. "

Then, there are the extreme cases.

Dheeraj Sahai, a copywriter from Mumbai, when asked if he ever faced annoying colleagues, replied, "Oh, about 75 in all. I didn't deal with it. I quit."

Whereas Deepti Unni, an editor from Mumbai, says: "I'm usually only bothered by incompetence, so I simply take on all the work that other person's not doing or doing badly." Not quite the best solution, that.

As Dilbert suggests, 'If you spend all of your time arguing with people who are nuts, you'll be exhausted and the nuts will still be nuts.'

The first step is to find out if the annoying behaviour is actually hampering your productivity at work. If not, patience and a good set of headphones with music will take care of the problem.

If yes, then it's time you took some action. Identify the exact problem your co-worker is creating. For instance, if it involves the lazy colleague, send across a mail spelling out exactly what is needed. Add a strict deadline. If it's the egoist boss who is affecting your work, toughen up and make your point firmly.

While you are taking all these measures, make sure you keep gossip to the minimum. Tattling to fellow employees is rarely, if ever, a good idea.

If these tactics don't work, confrontation should be your next step. But do it smartly. Don't get emotional. Check your tone of voice. Pick the right time and be honest. If everything fails to work though, it's time to consider a desk change, or maybe even a job change.

Again, as the office expert Dilbert would say, 'If at first you don't succeed, try again. Then quit. No use being a fool about it.'

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