Don’t let the title upset you or deter you from investigating its content. Normally I shun labeling people because once you label someone you have given up on her or him being anything else. Any valid viewpoint that person may have will be dismissed because he affiliates with a different political party than you or she subscribes to a religion other than what you believe in. You’re unwilling to help this individual better himself because you’re convinced he’ll never be anything more than what he already is. Even some parents label their children as the quiet one or the pretty one. When a child is tagged as good the parent often has a difficult time addressing issues of mischief because mom is convinced her little angel can do no wrong. Likewise a “bad child” is looked at as a lost cause, thus not properly motivated to behave better.
So in my opinion labeling others can be detrimental even if the label is inherently positive, which is why I avoid using labels at all cost. However in this case I’ve perpetrated the very act I despise for the purpose of getting your attention, thus hoping the end will justify the means. The truth is an obnoxious co-worker is really a co-worker who has done or will most likely do obnoxious things, not a person who is genetically predisposed to obnoxious behavior. This distinction is paramount to your ability to grow from the procedures in this document.
To avoid any confusion obnoxious behavior is being defined here as an action not in violation of any laws or regulations but is impolite or discouraging in nature. Any behavior in violation of harassment laws, ethics or performance protocol should not be misconstrued as obnoxious behavior and should be reported to the proper authorities. In other words obnoxious behavior is permissive but undesirable behavior. So if you say “good morning” to a co-worker and his reply is “what’s good about it” (in a non-joking manner) or a co-worker sighs habitually whenever asked to perform any of her routine duties, I’d say this constitutes obnoxious behavior. Also I tried to make this as entertaining as it is intended to be informative, so take all sarcasms with a grain of salt for the sake of the greater good.
Here are 10 steps to dealing with obnoxious co-workers. You may find yourself using any one or a combination of a few of them in any given instance. And even though each step is not necessarily sequential to the next they are not independent of each other. Embracing all 10 steps is the most complete way to grow from the experience. Also this is intended to be a process that may need to be repeated several times a day or as often as any co-worker exhibits repellent conduct.
Have pity on them. See him or her for what he or she really is [right now], a child – dreadfully unhappy in his or her own skin – on an endless quest for self-validation. A child, nevertheless, who may have loved ones. A person who could potentially be your greatest ally. Develop patience through pity to elevate above his or her level. The more you elevate your state of being above your co-worker’s the less sensitive you will be to his or her negativity. This is a process that must start with self-evaluation. Realizing your own short comings will foster compassion towards others. Walk a mile or two in his loafers. Think about how difficult it was for you [at times] to shine when your personal life was in disarray.
Lead by example. Pay your dues – show him or her how it’s done while simultaneously earning the right to point out their unfavorable behavior when the time comes. Be positive, professional, and polite to everyone at all times, especially to the obnoxious co-worker. If you don’t already have a healthy respect for other cultures and philosophies, get one fast! Respect is the key to a harmonious relationship and the beginning of all knowledge.
Mind over matter. When you wake up in the morning envision your day without interference or disorder from others. Fortify your resolve to take the bull by the horns and accomplish every goal you set that day. See yourself having a peaceful lunch with positive people then going right back to conquering the rest of your day. Not one mention of the obnoxious co-worker determining the outcome of your day. That’s the power of positive thought at its best. You won’t mind what he or she does so much because what he or she does [counterproductive] won’t matter.
Protagonist versus antagonist. Be the Yin to his or her Yang. Bring balance to your work environment by engaging the obnoxious co-worker in positive ways; not just in reaction to what he does first but proactively. The goal shouldn’t be to better him or her or “win the co-worker over.” that would mean you have an agenda which isn’t the same as providing balance. Besides, you may not want to change this person because he or she also brings something very valuable to your team or department and the obnoxious behavior may merely be a side-effect of this quality (e.g. he or she is never afraid to speak up in defense of the department or is very aggressive when closing a sale). Do it to weaken his or her corrosive effects on the work environment while increasing your position in the struggle for balance.
Selective confrontation. Dealing with an abhorrent co-worker doesn’t necessarily mean tolerating everything he or she does, but it does mean picking your battles wisely. There is nothing more satisfying to a self-centered individual than to gain attention at the expense of others. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Only respond factually and for the record to matters that challenge your competence or work ethic. Avoid tit for tat debates on the job at all cost. Never confront them about being obnoxious in general. Being obnoxious is a descriptive label thus ultimately nothing more than your opinion of them. Only confront him or her about specific actions. And don’t forget to keep score! Regardless if you’re right 100% of the time no one likes a confrontational person, so avoid being labeled as such. Let some challenges pass you by as to not over do it.
Be the bigger person. Like my grandmother would say, “you know better!” Be the better person to her bitter person. Make dealing with an unbearable co-worker more about you and less about her. Whose world (and by world I mean your personal space) is it anyways; theirs or yours? Your personal space belongs to you! After all, it’s about you having a wonderful day, you being productive and you providing for your family. If she’s doing something – something well within her rights to do – that bothers you, self-evaluate to determine why it bothers you; especially if it bothers no one else. Come to terms with it and work towards overcoming your issue with it.
Flush! Your esteem has been violated, your confidence replaced with anger and doubt. Confusion is negativity in sheep’s clothes and the negativity of others will eventually wear on you like the stickiness of a humid afternoon. Remove yourself from the source and flush the negativity from your system by:
Taking Five- Step away from the situation and your responsibilities completely for a few minutes. Go to the break room or outside to get some fresh air. Avoid contact with other employees at this time. The object is to be alone for a moment to regain control over your personal space.
Venting- Share your frustration with someone off the job like a spouse or friend. Make sure it’s someone who will not worsen the situation by egging you on. Venting is only productive when you replace the negative energy with positive energy.
Reflection- Take a moment to evaluate the situation and prioritize it in the grand scheme of things. This will help you devalue the incident and focus your energy on much more important matters. Think about all you’ve overcome to get to this point in your life. There’s an old saying that forewarns us not to rest on our laurels, but I think it’s ok to dust them off and wear them once in a while.
Do something creative- write a poem, doodle or make adjustments to your monthly budget. Anything that will allow you to escape from the moment. I started writing this article after an encounter with an obnoxious co-worker.
Celebrate each victory. No I don’t mean the battles you win (per step 5). I’m referring to something much more positive. I’m talking about baby steps; rewarding your co-worker each time he or she exhibits a good attitude. Make a point of acknowledging good behavior from the co-worker so that your silence to the bad behavior speaks volumes. And be consistent, never encourage the repugnant behavior. Remember he or she is a grown-up just like you. It’s not your responsibility to train them in the parental sense but it is your right to a non-hostile work environment. Positively reinforcing their good moments will go further with them.
Avoid bad-mouthing them. Bad-mouthing or gossiping should not be confused with venting. Venting is about releasing negative energy for the purpose of making room for positive energy, gossip creates more negative energy. Don’t be sucked into the negativity; it makes you look just as bad. Besides, obnoxious people are often perceived as confident people, which is a quality others are attracted to. The person you mouthed off to might report what you say to gain favor with the other co-worker, contributing to the chaos.
Lighten up! Again, this is in regards to behavior not in violation of any company or federal regulations. Perhaps your co-worker isn’t as obnoxious as you think. Maybe you just need to bring it down a notch. One way to lighten up is to observe this co-worker around others to determine if his behavior is consistent. If he acts this way with mostly everyone then don’t take it personal. Focus more on the intent and less on the action to see if maybe, just maybe, it really was his way of breaking the ice. Maybe you’re just having a bad day. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re the obnoxious co-worker annoyed by the jubilance of others.