5 Ways to Work With People Who Annoy You
Good manners, deep breaths and boundaries solve most problems happily enough.
Somewhere in your business career, you will probably work with someone you find annoying. Maybe they ask too many questions, try to engage on a level you find uncomfortably personal, or constantly make excuses or demands.
It’s natural to be tempted to ignore someone who annoys you, or turn away from this person when he gets on your last nerve. However, this may not be the best strategy. The people you find the most annoying might actually be the best choice for the job, based on their skill set and knowledge base.
In her book, Managing Annoying People: 7 Proven Tactics to Maximize Team Performance, workplace consultant Ilene Marcus states that too often, annoying personalities can drain energy, zap productivity, and undermine your morale and sense of efficacy as a manager. She also says that you can learn to identify and manage these interoffice dynamics to the benefit of everyone involved.
Here are some tactics you can try:
1. Protect your own energy.
Avoid letting others drain your energy or raise your ire by limiting the amount of time spent on interactions. Rather than avoiding the annoying person altogether, time your meetings to allow for a graceful exit, and practice self-control. Respect their contribution while controlling your own reactions. When you disagree, diffuse the conversation by saying something like, “Jon, even though I don’t agree with you, I appreciate your sharing your insights.” Or, “We’re just going to have to agree to disagree on that issue.”
2. Set boundaries.
Establish clear boundaries and be consistent in enforcing them. This helps co-workers toe the line when it comes to making inappropriate demands, overstepping boundaries, or asking overly personal questions. If someone begins to bring up an inappropriate topic, politely restate the limit, as in “Although I appreciate your concern, I prefer not talk about this issue at work.”
3. Set a time limit.
Make it clear from the start of an interaction just how much time you have by saying something like, “I’m happy to chat. Just know that I have ten minutes before I need to leave for a meeting.” Or plan your interaction between other events. Stay in control and cut the conversation short when your deadline arrives.
4. Familiarize yourself with various personality types.
Managing others means learning their personality style and how to best motivate them. The Predictive Index can help you overcome the most complex business challenges by helping you understand your co-workers’ personality characteristics. Let’s face it, some people need a lot of handholding or explanation while others prefer to be left alone to work at their own pace. Do your best to adapt your management style when necessary, while delivering clear direction.
5. Mind your body language.
You may be tempted to cross your arms, roll your eyes, or sigh with exasperation when dealing with an annoying person, but as a leader, you must set the standard for respect. Others are always watching. While you can’t change a person’s annoying behavior, you can control how you react. It may be challenging at times, but smile, listen respectfully, and be consistent in all your actions.
Consider too that you might be the one who is annoying at times and you may not even know it. Recognizing other people’s reactions to you may give you clues that perhaps you need to alter your own actions. As the Golden Rule states, “Treat others the way you wish to be treated.”
A successful entrepreneur must learn to work with all types of people and personalities. And it means joining forces on the same team in pursuit of a common goal. If a team member has the skills, give their strengths a chance to shine, and learn ways to manage their quirky behavior that prevent them from derailing your goals or your day.
Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla. She is the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).