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Six ways to handle an annoying coworker

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If only it were just as serious as manspreading in the office...

A career in the world of finance has many challenges. You need to juggle several balls and keep a few plates spinning at all times. To be competitive, you need to have up-to-the-second real-time numbers, keep an eye on the foreign markets and have your psychic powers honed to a razor-sharp edge when predicting future trends and determining when it’s time to buy and sell, all while providing world-class customer service.

You’re no doubt a professional and can handle all of that without ever letting them see you sweat, but something that you can’t plan on, which may send all of those plates and balls crashing to the ground, is a difficult co-worker. “Difficult” can mean anything that interferes with you doing your job and disrupts the flow of business. Sometimes, it’s just someone who gets on your nerves, but it can be more serious and the situation can grow in magnitude. If it’s bad enough, it can spill over into your personal life and make you miserable.

Here are some effective techniques to help you deal with it.

1. Don’t be a victim

In the hard-edged world of finance, you have to be tough, but there is a world of difference between being a crybaby over a setback and dealing with harassment. It is important that you stand up for yourself and put a stop to any harassment immediately. If you let someone walk all over you once, it will keep happening and only get worse.

If dealing with the behavior yourself doesn’t fix things, you may have to get management or HR involved. Nobody wants to be a tattletale, but if someone has done something that’s serious enough, then it’s important that they are reported. This includes any form of harassment, intimidation or criminal activity.

2. Talk about it

When you dwell on a situation and keep everything bottled up inside, you can lose perspective. Find a few people that you trust and run it by them to see what they think. Treat it like you would any other problem-solving meeting and try to find the best solution. Just as you might talk about an investment strategy with a few people to get another take, discuss the annoying coworker and best ways to handle him.

Sometimes the simple act of saying what you’re thinking out loud is enough to make you feel better and realize that it’s not as bad as you originally thought. Otherwise you can feel more certain about what course of action you need to take.

3. Meet in private

If the problem with the difficult person is something that does not need involving management, speak to them privately. Try to make the discussion as constructive as possible. Focus on their strengths and what they can do to improve in areas that need a little work. Be a good listener and take a kindhearted approach.

Never ridicule or belittle the person, or get so angry that you burn bridges. This approach can reflect badly on you and backfire in a big way.

4. Look in the mirror 

Before you call out others for what they are doing, make sure that you’re not doing the same thing yourself! Before you appoint yourself as the authority on proper conduct, make sure that you’re on solid ground. Glass can be sharp, and you don’t want to get cut when the stones you’ve been throwing come right back at you and the glass house you’ve built.

5. Reinforce your position with office procedure

It’s easier to assert your position if your office already has an official set of guidelines and protocols in place. If somebody’s behavior is not only obnoxious, but also a violation of office policy, you will have a more solid reason to complain.

6. Be ready to forgive and forget

If the problem does manage to be resolved, let everyone start over with a clean slate and move on. Don’t gloat if things went in your favor, and don’t hold a person’s past transgressions against them. You don’t want to go from holding the moral high ground to sinking in quicksand. Just let it go and remember that the whole point was to restore a safe and productive environment, not to retaliate.

Having a difficult coworker is like a bear market: You’re going to encounter it at least once in your life and probably more. If you exercise the right options and make careful investments in your decisions, you will be able to ride out the low tide and be back on the bull in no time.

Lisa Copeland is a global workplace expert specializing in culture, engagement, leadership and teamwork. She is part of the leadership team at The Culture Works. 

Photo credit: 4×6/GettyImages

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