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3 Ways To Get Along With That Irritating Coworker

You don’t have to be friends with everyone in the office, but you do spend a lot of time with them. Here’s how to deal.

3 Ways To Get Along With That Irritating Coworker
[Photo: Flickr user Giorgio Galeotti]

We all have colleagues like this–the guy who doesn’t know the difference between their and they’re, the woman who “ums” her way through a presentation, and the temp with a laugh that sounds like a machine gun.

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You don’t have to like everyone you work with, but negative feelings left unchecked can adversely affect your team and, in turn, your career, says Liane Davey, vice president of team solutions at Knightsbridge Human Capital in Toronto.

Davey recently explored this topic from a management perspective for the Harvard Business Review. Here are some tips to try when that person’s working your last nerve.

1. Figure Out What’s Really Bothering You

If you find yourself muttering phrases like: “He makes me so angry,” or “She drives me nuts,” Davey says it’s time to change your thinking. “Recognize that anger, frustration, or mistrust is your reaction, and that no one has the ability to make you feel something without your consent,” she says.

Instead of getting upset, she adds, spend some time getting to the root of your frustration to find out what it is about this person you find so grating.

“The question I always consider is, ‘What don’t I like about this person?’” says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, a job site for telecommuting positions based in Boulder, Colorado. If it’s a personal issue, Fell suggests limiting the amount of time you spend together to tasks or work projects where you’re both working on a common goal. That way, you’re more focused on the task instead of their annoying habit.

2. Find Common Ground

While it may seem counterintuitive, increasing your time with the annoying person can help your interaction, Davey says. If you don’t have a poker face, chances are you’re giving signals that you’re uncomfortable, or you don’t like being around that person.

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Davey suggests starting the conversation with something like: “You and I haven’t had much of an opportunity to get to know one another. What are the most important things to know about you?”

“Finding some common ground will make it easier to put yourself in that person’s shoes the next time they are driving you up a wall,” says Kelly Poulson, vice president of talent and operations at Allen & Gerritsen, a Philadelphia-based advertising agency. Are you both dog lovers? Do you share a secret love of reality shows? Spending a few minutes getting to know the person will pay off in the long run, she says.

3. Accentuate The Positive

Instead of focusing on the negative, try shifting your attention to what the person does well or what you like about them, Davey suggests. Do they make positive contributions to the group you want to encourage, like offering excellent customer service or exhibiting great presentation skills?

Even if these skills are overapplied, they present an opportunity to encourage positive behavior while pointing out when it may be a little over the top.

[h/t: Harvard Business Review]

About the author

Lindsay LaVine is a Chicago-based business and lifestyle freelance writer who's worked for NBC and CNN. Her work has appeared online in Entrepreneur.com, Reuters.com, Today.com, NBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo, Business Insider, BlogHer.com and Fox Business.

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