Co-Workers Driving You Bananas? Avoid Getting Bruised!

Whether they’re arrogant, talkative, pushy, time-sucks, whiners, or over-all annoying, if they’re your co-workers, you have to deal with them. As tempting as it would be to go “postal”, the reality is you need to have a positive relationship with them in order to be effective in your job. Sure, you could complain to your boss but that could make you look bad and potentially worsen the situation with your co-workers. How do you manage the relationship with an impossible co-worker – without alienating them? Here are the behaviors that cause the most trouble, and ideas on how to deal with them:


  1. Arrogant Alvin – He’s the guy who swaggers into your office and is all too happy to point out what you need to do. To boot, he probably talks loud. Arrogant people are generally very insecure, so it’s important to be tactful. The best way to deal with Alvin when he insists on telling you how or what to do is to acknowledge his positive intention, “I know you’re trying to be helpful and I can appreciate that.” Then kill two birds with one stone. Create a bond with him so he’s likely to walk away feeling good, and tell him how you generally handle things so it’s more a statement about you than it is about him. For example, “If I find I need your help, it’s good to know that I have you as a resource. Generally, however, just like you, I prefer to do things my own way.” This leaves the door open for you, should you need his help in the future.
  2. Pushy Pricilla – Pricilla is stubborn and argumentative and generally pushy. When she takes a position she won’t give an inch – even if there are other valid options to consider, she has to be right. The best way to deal with her is to find some point of agreement with what she is saying. This will immediately disarm her and she will become more open to your point of view. Pricilla is so pushy and stubborn because she feels like her idea is being resisted. For example, Pricilla insists that the marketing budget should be spent on advertising, yet you think promotion is more important. She says “Advertising works. It always has in the past and it’s a no brainer”. If you respond “No, we should do promotion” she will launch into 10 reasons why advertising is better. The most effective way to handle Pricilla is to find something you can agree on “You’re right, advertising has worked.” This does not mean you agree that the budget should be spent on advertising, you’re just finding common ground. By offering this, Pricilla will no longer feel the need to keep pounding away at her position and will be more open to hearing your ideas.
  3. Willie Whiner – Complainers just want to complain. Willie doesn’t want advice or you to argue with him, he just wants a sounding board. Oh, but it’s so annoying to listen to him complain and complain. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the faster you empathize, the quicker he’ll be finished. For example, Willie says “I work hard and nobody notices.” You can short circuit this conversation by saying “You do work hard and I can understand why you’d be upset if nobody cared”. You just gave Willie what he wants – a little understanding.
  4. Talkative Tillie – Every office has someone like Tillie. By all accounts, she is a very nice person but just tends to talk too much. You see her walking down the hall and look for an open door to duck into. You feel guilty, don’t want to be rude, but have work to do and can’t spend big chunks of time listening to the minutia. Unfortunately, you can’t avoid her forever so when she pops into your cubicle, set the expectation upfront. Let her know you’re in the middle of something and only have a couple of minutes. Then signal that with body language: stand up, don’t let her sit down; look at your watch and have an intensity about you so she knows you need to get back to work. You can excuse yourself and say “sorry I have to cut this short”.
  5. Nosey Nancy & Rude Richard – Let us hear from you.   What is your best advice on dealing with these types in your office?

Since no man is an island and we all have to work together, it’s important to try and understand where your co-workers are coming from. When you realize their behavior is a symptom of some other issues they’re dealing with and most likely has nothing to do with you, you’ll be better equipped to deal with them. No matter how annoying your co-workers can be, have compassion. After all, you may fit into one of these annoying categories on a bad day.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching

Copyright 2009 Whelan Stone. All rights reserved.


About whelanstone

I'm originally from New York - lost my accent when I moved down to Florida - and made San Francisco my home in 1985. I've been recruiting & coaching for 12 years, with the best partner (Fred) you could ask for, and love what I do. When I'm not busy working I write screenplays (haven't sold one yet) and travel - Morocco this past summer was fantastic. Fred and I started this blog because we wanted to share what we've learned along the way. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as we do writing it.
This entry was posted in career, co-workers, Etiquette, office, work, workplace. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Co-Workers Driving You Bananas? Avoid Getting Bruised!

  1. Bonnie says:

    Hi! I have a co-worker who walks into conversations constantly! I don’t have the guts to say “can we help you?”, so I’ve been totally acting like she’s not even there! It’s really driving me crazy, not to mention the fact that she’s the laziest co-worker I’ve ever met and gets away with it! Do I “rat” her out?

  2. whelanstone says:

    Hi Bonnie,
    You can extricate yourself from the intruding co-worker by telling her “We are right in the middle of something important. Let me catch up with you later when I have a minute.” Regarding her laziness, you don’t need to tell her boss about it. The chances are excellent that her boss already knows about her work habits and that will likely be mentioned at her next personnel review, if not sooner.
    Hope this helps.
    Fred & Gladys

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